My mother is the real gardener. She thinks that only certain plants are worth having in her garden. She believes strongly that a plant’s utility is more important than its beauty or the ease of getting it to grow. Even the plants she has planted are not safe, she trims back her rosemary so the asparagus can grow and thins out her tomato plants so they can actually produce tomatoes instead of just leafy, green jungle.
I am a wanna be gardener. If plant has pretty flowers or leaves, I’ll keep it. If it looks happy growing there, I’ll leave it. I tend toward Darwin’s theory when it comes to plants: survival of the fittest. So I just plant and let it go. At the end of the season, if I get fruit, I am thrilled; but if I don’t, I am not too broken up over it. And yes, even I know that my gardening theories do not tend to encourage the production of produce…something to do with weeds and imposters and lack of actually tending.
My problem is this: I find it tempting to approach life very similarly to the way I garden. If a habit looks pretty, I’ll let it stay… If something in my life is bringing me success, I’ll keep it… I let the chips fall where they may as far as how I invest my time and talents… Any fruit I get is a bonus and if there is nothing to show for my choices, well, I wasn’t betting on it anyway.
Praise God, He is not me – He is the ultimate gardener. John calls Him the vinedresser (John 15). My mom has good gardening experience, but God knows all things. He knows how much water and how much sun to allow to cultivate the best harvest in our lives. He knows how much to trim and thin and train. That pretty little habit, may need to be uprooted. That showy plant that everyone admires…it may need to be trimmed back to make room for what God admires. He trains his vines to grow on a trestle not just randomly flop all over the corner plot. And He expects fruit.
If you have asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, you have a caring, invested Gardener. I know I do. The question is will we fight His hand and methods or grow fruitful under them?
I was watering the grass this morning. If you do not live in the desert, it is hard to imagine (but easy to understand). In this part of the country if you do not water your grass, it dies. And it’s dead; it doesn’t just come back next season or when you remember to water it. One week of no sprinklers has done our kidney shaped patch of grass in the backyard serious damage. (We are still babying it, trying to coax it to live.)
But as I stood there mindlessly soaking the bald patches in our grass, I thought, “How funny.” No one would ever criticize you for daily caring for your garden (or grass in this instance). You wouldn’t say, well, I watered yesterday (or last week) so no worries.
But we do this all the time in our spiritual life. I rationalize that I can skip prayer this morning because I went to church last night. I’ll listen to Christian music on the way to work instead of reading my Bible this morning. But that daily soaking in of God’s Presence and Word is what keeps our spiritual life alive.
Maybe my grass could live on once-a-week water…maybe…but even if it did manage to limp along it would not be what grass is meant to be. It would be brown and dry and sparse instead of green and soft and full. That is the kind of grass worth having and thus, working to have.
Maybe my relationship with Jesus could survive being fed just on Sunday but it won’t be the rich relationship God has made it to be. It will be boring and cold and weak instead of vibrant and hot and strong. That is the kind of relationship worth enjoying and thus, worth pursuing.
“Blessed is the man who trusts the Lord,
And whose hope is in the Lord.
He shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
The prophet Ezekiel responded to God with these words in Ezekiel 37. He looked out over a situation that was beyond hopeless – it was dead. Everyone had written it off and moved on. The army was not only destroyed, the only thing left of them was bones – and those bones were starting to flake apart with heat and time.
And God asked His prophet a question with only one possible answer – outside of God. He asked, “Can these bones lives?”
I feel like sometimes God does this in our lives. That dream, that desire, the opportunity is so dead, it’s bones are bleached. And God whispers, “Can that live?”
How hard to respond in faith and humility like Ezekiel and say, “O God, only You really know.”
Oh to have that kind of confidence in God! If You want it, Lord, nothing is impossible.
And then Ezekiel took it up a notch. He heard God’s ridiculous plan…and he obeyed. He opened his mouth and preached to the dead. As Ezekiel did what he was told, God did what He told him He would do.
Those bones lived.
To believe mentally is inadequate; we must do as we are told. Only then do we get to see God’s will fulfilled, His promised kept, and things greater even than these.
We believe the impossible. We obey even when it’s dark. God does the impossible and those who walk in darkness see a great light. And we believe more.
Ever noticed how often they appear in His conversations?
With Moses. With Job. With the prophets.
Who made man’s mouth? (Exodus 4:11)
Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? (Job 40:1)
Who is like the Lord? (Psalms 113:5)
He Who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He Who formed the eye, shall He not see?
Those questions have obvious answers. Our struggle is when we read them with doubt. Maybe He made a mistake when He made me. Perhaps He isn’t looking just now. Maybe He can’t hear me today.
The questions lose their magnificence if your mind gets stuck debating the answer. And that is a shame because it obscures the majesty of God. That indecision throws a veil over His true glory.
Behind that veil it is easy (even practical or prudent) to give these truths lip service – but our actions don’t agree. We treat other things as stronger gods. We make plans as if there are others that can alter His designs. We wallow in our fear and anxieties, worrying if God really sees, hears, cares and is working on our behalf.
The proper response to these questions is:
God You are Creator!
No one compares to You!
Your eyes are always open to the world of Your creation and Your ears always hear!
None can withstand Your will (Isaiah 14:27)!
Those answers fill the heart with joy, peace and security in internalizing the awesomeness of our God.
O that I truly lived in the truth of God’s rhetorical questions!
Is there anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14)
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.