In high school, I drove a 1978 Buick Electra. It had an army green exterior…and interior. At some point in the car’s history, I’m sure she was a thing of beauty. For my brother and I, she was a means of transportation. Maybe owing to the car’s age, and maybe owing to the way we treated her, “The Tank” often needed some type of mechanical repair. The problem was, I only knew how to change the oil and the tires. Outside of those two basics, I was out of my league. I just didn’t know that much about cars. Fortunately though, I knew someone who did.
My grandfather, or Papaw as I knew him, owned an auto parts store. Papaw did business with most of the mechanics in town. He knew what he was doing, but beyond his technical expertise, anyone who ever met him loved and respected him for his character. So what do you think I did when I needed work done on The Tank? You guessed it. I made sure the mechanic knew that I was Clyde Richards’ grandson.
Oh there were a lot of reasons for this. I loved Papaw. But I also knew that he could speak for me when I didn’t know what to say. His reputation in the community spoke for me, so I didn’t have to fear being taken advantage of. And often times, he literally spoke for me, calling a mechanic to tell them what I needed when I didn’t understand it myself.
I was not the expert, but by virtue of my family relationship, I had ready access to the expert. And that ready access was accompanied by his loving and protective care. There is a very long list of reasons why I miss my Papaw, with his knowledge of cars ranking pretty low, relatively speaking. But, on more than one occasion when I’ve had to have repair work done in a new town, I’ve missed his counsel.
Over the course of the past week, I’ve spent hours studying and praying over Romans 8:26-27. In many respects, I believe the Lord keeps bringing me back to this picture of the loving counsel provided by an expert who knows his subject matter intimately, and who cares deeply for his family. I believe that is an appropriate description of the Holy Spirit’s work in these verses, as he guides the children of God in prayer, and as he steps in to pray on our behalf. He is the loving expert, who knows us perfectly, and who perfectly knows the will of God the Father.
I still don’t know that much about cars, so I have to rely on the experts. By God’s grace, I am beginning to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. As I do, I’m coming to see that learning to follow Jesus is learning to know my own weakness…and to pray accordingly, relying on the expert witness of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to join me in learning to rely on him, to pray with him, and to lean into the Father’s love for us.