Before I cultivated a pattern of regular Bible study and prayer, God most often spoke to me by bonking me over the head.
Perhaps he resorted to dramatic methods because I was too thick-headed to hear him otherwise. Perhaps I was too single-minded to perceive his more subtle direction. Like Paul, I could only heed him when I trembled before the blinding overwhelm of his glory. Whatever the case, God chose true kairos moments – car accidents, visions, even medical miracles – to steer me back toward his path.
Once Christ brought me to himself, the Spirit began to mold me. With a thirst to know God, I searched for him in the gospels with a seminary textbook at the ready. I listened to the Bible on audio as I drove to the hospital in the dark hours before dawn. Then read it with pen in hand, dipping in and out of books that drew me back. Sermons and works by Tim Keller, John Piper, and Ravi Zacharias added nuance and richness to my comprehension.
As my understanding grew, so did my joy. His living and active word revealed its import in moments as heavy as the passing of a life in a trauma bay, and as simplistic as the tilt of a sapling toward the sun. Soon, the joy overflowed. The Spirit prodded me to share God’s word with a pen, and then with teaching.
After a reading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together convicted me of how I’d squandered my mornings, reaching for the phone before the Lord, I now pray upon waking and offer my day to him. I’ll read a psalm or a devotion, and then, in the early morning hours, I write. As a Christian writer, mining God’s word for truth and then connecting these truths with the clamor of modern life is a form of worship. It forces me to be still, to pay attention, and to reflect upon his character. It compels me to confront my own sins each morning, and to praise him for his grace in Christ.
The evenings, too, my husband and I devote to him. After the bustle of the day has finally quieted, and the kids are in bed, we pray together, and read a chapter from whatever Scripture we’ve decided to dive into together. In these ways, whatever craziness takes hold of us in life, we still give our beginnings and endings to the Lord. At the dawn and close of each day, we turn to him. Perhaps over time, we’ll learn to give every moment over to him, as he’s due.
One of the richest ways God has immersed me in his word has been in the call to shepherd others. I suspect the preparation to guide Bible studies at church and in small groups has blessed me more than those whom I teach. The deeper he leads me into who he is and what he has done, the more he equips me to navigate hard questions that surface throughout the peaks and valleys of life. The need for clarity has been most obvious in discipling my own children. The guileless minds of kids dream up some of the most frank questions, and exploring them over the breakfast table daily challenges me to mine deeper, and to know him further.
Since revealing his word to me, God now reaches me through whispers. Or, probably more accurately, he’s opened my heart to discern his will in subtle moments. When the same verse drifts through my days repeatedly, I know the Spirit is guiding me. When I pray and he gives me a verse, I know he is nudging me toward himself. God can churn up some fantastic cataclysms to reveal himself to us, replete with calamity, fire and smoke. But he also offers every one of his image bearers on earth, regardless of nationality or upbringing, a window into himself: the pages of an ancient, divinely inspired book. I thank God daily for offering us his word, and for guiding us into deeper communion with the Father who loves us, the Son who saves us, and the Spirit who makes our triune God known.
Kathryn Butler (MD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) is a trauma and critical care surgeon who trained at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she then joined the faculty. She left clinical practice in 2016 to homeschool her children, and now writes regularly for Desiring God, the Gospel Coalition, and her blog Oceans Rise on topics intersecting faith and medicine. She is the author of Between Life and Death: A Gospel-Centered Guide to End-of-Life Medical Care (Crossway, 2019).