My husband served as a university librarian for forty years. Since the library contains a record of all the world’s knowledge and since the world’s librarians spend most of their waking hours surrounded by all the world’s knowledge we expect a lot of them.
Over the years my children have come to their father for help with questions of many varieties. After all, a good librarian should know everything. I’ve heard him respond many times, “A librarian doesn’t need to know everything. They just need to know how to find everything.” My husband did not spend forty years learning everything that could be learned in the library. He spent forty years helping individual students find the best resources available and showing them how they might best be used. He’s a research specialist.
When we married, my five children were ages five through seventeen and one of the best things about their new dad was realized just before any report was due at school. I remember him coming home from the university one day early in our marriage and sitting down with my youngest daughter who had been assigned to write a report for her science class on an animal. She had chosen to study and report on bears. She explained to him that one of her sources could be the “encyclopedia.” He patiently sat next to her and helped her understand that she could not simply copy word for word out of the reference. He taught her to read and then close the book, pick up her pencil, and put the concepts in her own words.
Since that day there have been countless reports due. Most often the kids came to him in crisis mode. “Oh Marv, I have to do a report. It’s going to be OK though because the report’s not due yet. I just need to turn in all my resources by tomorrow. Can you help me!!!!”
Marv was a great one for not offering to do the work for the kids, but if they would find a few hours to spend with him in the library he was more than willing to help out. I remember the time he helped my son find just what he needed for a report on a World War II fighter squadron. Several days later my son went to use the resources they had gathered and discovered he had accidentally left all the books sitting on a desk at the library after a hard day of study. The fear of losing library books is ingrained in each of us at an early age. But they weren’t lost. My son’s librarian dad soon discovered that they were still checked out to them and had simply been re-shelved. Together they looked up the call numbers in the book stacks and re-found each book.
The Lord reminded me of my children and their library experiences with their dad just the other day in an effort to teach me an important truth.
I had just gotten off of the phone from sponsoring someone struggling with addiction. I was filled with regret because I didn’t know the exact advice to give this person in regard to a particular issue.
The question crossed my mind, “So who do you think you are, offering to give support to other struggling mortals?”
I answered back, “So who do I think I am?”
So many times my discussions with those I sponsor or support involve questions about how to solve a current problem, what choice to make in a given life situation, or the truth about a some aspect of life. I receive queries every day that I am ill equipped and unqualified to address, not to mention my complete lack of authority, being wholly unauthorized by God or man to give others their marching orders. And then there’s the matter of my own imperfect behavior, sometimes in the exact thing that’s troubling the person needing assistance!
Then my husband’s words came into my mind. “Nannette, a good librarian doesn’t know everything. A good librarian knows how to find everything. He’s a research specialist.”
That’s it!!! I see!!! He’s an expert on how best to seek, and like a good librarian, a good sponsor doesn’t have to know everything either. They’re not experts on the details of how other struggling mortals should solve every problem. They are not all knowledgeable about all things, but they have come to know the One who is. They know how and where to seek. They’ve discovered that God is the greatest of all resources when it comes to solving problems, overcoming sin, and enduring trials.
One of my husband’s greatest frustrations as a university librarian is the student who sees the “Google” search as the answer to all his or her research needs. We live in a world where instant answers that require a simple search are the order of the day. He says that the easy search never results in the finest, most current scholarly findings. With no filter the simple search brings confusion because the results come by the hundreds and thousands and have to be sorted out by the hours in order to find the materials of greatest value. On the other hand Marv can work with a student for an hour and at the end of their time together they don’t have three thousand possibilities to check out for value. No, they have the twenty very best sources available.
We are surrounded by individuals who are wasting their time and their lives searching out answers to their problems, “Google style.” We have been there ourselves. Finally we ran out of money and room for one more self-help book on our library shelf. Finally someone introduced us the very best Resource available, the Authority on how to navigate life’s struggles and solve life’s most difficult problems. We turned to Him and found Him ready and willing to assist us with any search. Now our great desire is to help others.
I came across these words in the book Alcoholics Anonymous or the Big Book. These words represent the humility and understanding necessary in giving effective support. “We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” With this simple understanding you and I can assist anyone with his or her search for answers.
We don’t ever have to shy away from giving support because we’re not omniscient! In fact it’s critical to realize that “we know only a little.” What a relief! As demonstrated by the “good librarian,” our work is to lead those who are seeking to the One Resource that will never fail them and then to live in faith that, “God will constantly disclose more to [them] and to us.”
By Nannette W.
Posted Monday, May 24, 2010.
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All rights reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.