I saw the little red bar on the sign at the front of the train.
But I didn’t think much about it.
After all, it was late on a Sunday evening and the train that would take me one stop to my destination in Sengendai was pulling into the station as I arrived on the platform.
It has been a great evening – the English worship service at the church in Kasukabe and then out to Denny’s with my fellow ex-pats and a few Japanese friends.
And now it was time to head home so I could be ready to teach English the next day at the Japanese school where I worked.
Turned out that little red bar next to the Japanese characters I could not read was significant.
I realized it when we literally flew through my station – the very next stop.
And every stop after it.
Until we reached Tokyo, about 18 miles southwest of my bed.
I had inadvertently caught the express train.
At 10:30 at night.
And realized pretty quickly that only local trains go back out of Tokyo to the suburbs at that time of night. It was much, much later than 10:30 when I finally turned the key to my apartment.
After that I became much more aware of things like little red bars on signs – even though I still couldn’t read the characters. I paid closer attention to subtle differences in my world so that I wouldn’t mess up quite so badly again. Which meant I was always traveling on high alert everywhere I went.
Except when I didn’t have to be.
When I would go out with a group of friends, someone else would be in charge of knowing what train, what stop, what door, what direction.
And it was awesome.
Most of the time, that person was our friend Jeffery.
He was more fluent than most of us and is a leader by nature.
So when we were hanging out with him, I didn’t worry about the details. I just knew that if I stayed in step with him, I would safely arrive wherever we needed to be.
As a group we recognized the value of having Jeffery with us.
And so, if he couldn’t go on an excursion, we would quickly pick someone else to manage the details so the rest of us didn’t have to think about them. And that person – whoever they were – became known as the “Designated Jeffery”.
(And can I add, that person was rarely me? Thank God!)
I have traveled many places since my time of living in Japan. Sometimes I have been alone. But most of the time, I have been able to rely on guides. People who have a greater understanding, a more thorough vision, a deeper knowledge of the geography, language and culture of the places I am traveling through. And it has been awesome. I can enjoy the experiences – the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand; the beautiful scenery between Guatemala City and Coban, Guatemala; the tour of Goroka, Papau New Guinea – without fear because of all these “Designated Jefferys” God has provided along the way.
But here’s the thing.
In ALL of my days, in all of my experiences – even when I am alone and even here on home soil – I was never once designed to do life without a “Designated Jeffery”.
I carry Him in my heart.
No – not Jeffery – or any other human being.
The Holy Spirit.
He is the Ultimate Guide.
He not only knows the geography, language and culture – He knows the motives of the people I meet. The events that will happen in the future. The dangers that are hidden from my eyes but are plain to Him.
I am never, ever alone.
And I was never, ever designed to live in fear, even when I am physically alone.
Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, that “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and love and self-control”. (2 Timothy 1:7) That Spirit God has given – the one of power, love and self-control – is the Holy Spirit, who indwells every Christ-follower from the moment of salvation.
The question then becomes one of control.
He lives in me.
He is more than capable of guiding every part of my life.
I don’t ever have to be the one in charge.
Will I yield to His control?
Will I trust Him to be the best guide?
Will I listen to His promptings?
Will I obey His still, small voice?
In all of my travels I have never once presumed to blow off the instructions of one of my guides.
I recognize their value, their experience, their expertise.
If they say something is safe, it is safe.
If they give a warning, I heed it.
If they say this is our stop, it is our stop.
And if they say we need to go, we go.
Why don’t I do the same thing with the Holy Spirit?
As much as I have appreciated the guides God has provided in all my travels, none of them are omnipotent. Omniscient. Or omnipresent. None of them have been perfect. And yet I tend to trust them more than I trust the Holy Spirit of the Living God.
Or, at least, that is what my actions say.
That is what I am saying when I choose worry over releasing the matter to God.
When I choose control over surrender.
When I choose to be ungrateful for all I do not have instead of overwhelmed by His goodness in all that I do have.
When I choose to move ahead before He gives the green light.
And when I choose to stay put when He has said, “Move.”
Every time I sin, I am telling God that He is not worthy of my trust.
He is not a good Guide.
And He does not know the best pathways for my life.
I am incredibly grateful for all the guides that God has provided for me over the years in my travels.
But I am even more grateful that He has never left me, never forsaken me, never allowed me to keep wandering in my own lost-ness for very long. He has never said, “That’s it, Katherine! You have one more chance to listen to my directions and if you do not, I am out of here!” Instead, He has patiently waited for me to get on board with Him, for me to surrender once more, for me to say once again, “Thy will be done.”
And can I say, life is so much better when the Ultimate “Designated Jeffery” is in charge?
He’s always willing to be – may I always choose to be willing to let Him.
And that’s my prayer for you as well, today and every day:
May we both have lives of wonderful adventures with God, filled with perfect peace and abundant joy because we are consistently allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control.