“Keep the garden alive.” My mother was leaving her garden in my care for an entire week. “You just have to water it.”
It was small miracle that I remembered to water it every day. And I still killed it -- an asparagus plant (and a pea plant…but who’s counting?). It started out looking unhealthy, and then it just keeled over.
What was the problem? I treated it the same as all the other plants, gave it everything everybody else got. But maybe…that was the problem. Perhaps it wasn’t like the other plants. Maybe it needed something else.
God is our Gardener. And unlike me, He knows exactly what we need to thrive, live a fulfilled life, and take our place in His kingdom.
I confess, I have spent too much time considering what “everyone else” has and whining to God: “She has that – why don’t have that?” or “He got to do that – why can’t I?” Maybe she gets the big house, he gets the better job, or they get those children because that is what is best for them. Maybe I don’t, because it is not what is best for me.
All I can say for sure is: the Gardener knows best.
My Defense is of God, Who Saves the Upright in Heart. – Psalm 7:10
Over four years, this morning was the third time I have had the same thought triggered by the same lyrics of, “Lord I need Thee”. One line captures my attention.
“My one defense.”
Most of the time I think of a defense as protection, a shield, or a safe place – and God is all these. But a defense can also mean a reason – a justification for an action.
God is my only reason.
He is the only possible explanation for the way I choose to live.
The only plausible excuse for the way I believe.
The only justification for my “archaic” morals – is God.
He is my one defense. And I need no other, I want no other.
“How can you believe who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” – John 5:44
Inspirational music crescendos as the audience follows the undersized hero through the hall of heroes. We hold our breath as he lays his eye on the prize he has worked for his entire life. His green fingers reach out to touch the shiny silver surface…and my mind thinks, “How dumb.” My family will tell you – I love Monster’s University but in this pivotal movie moment I was distracted by a sobering parallel.
Mike W. is staking everything on whether or not he wins this trophy. A trophy from a college competition for fraternity or sorority pride at a fabled university that – spoiler alert – exists only as the figment of imagination. As I watched, I wondered how many of my awards, my goals, my investments will appear the same as Mike’s in heaven?
Few things last forever -- God and the souls of people -- and ultimately, only God's opinion and approval matter. My marathon ribbons and beautiful physical appearance. My stunning front yard (and my picture on the cover of Home & Garden). My illustrious career built by 60+ hour work weeks. From heaven, when I look out over my accomplishments, what will survive the reality check? And what will be a worthless trophy from a petty competition from a fake universe?
1 Kings 19 is the epitome of a weary prayer. Elijah’s body is worn out from running a marathon and not eating. He’s used all his emotional energy fighting for God and living under constant death threats. He has nothing left. God alone is sustaining his spirit.
“What are you doing here Elijah?” God comes to Elijah’s cave.
“I have done everything for you, God. It’s failing. I’m alone and they are coming to kill me.”
“Go stand before the Lord.” Comes the divine response. And the Lord passes by.
The rocks shatter.
The ground trembles.
The earth is engulfed in fire.
Once the sheer power of the presence of God has captured Elijah’s attention, then the Lord speaks.
Exhaustion naturally turns our focus and our prayers inward. Elijah mentions himself six times in two identical prayers as he prays the broken record inside his head. “I did everything right. It’s all gone wrong. I have nothing left to give because I did everything right. It’s all gone wrong. I have nothing left to give because…”
When we have eaten nothing, drank nothing, gone too long without sleep, worked too hard without a break, humanity catches up with us. And we find ourselves exhausted before God. Our prayers mirror Elijah’s – because that is all our broken minds can spit out.
Elijah needed relief and God knew his downward spiral could not be derailed by self-help or self-love or self-care. The Lord gave Elijah what he needed. He needed God, to see and focus on God’s presence, God’s power, God’s love. He needed to worship the Lord of Hosts, escape from the traps of his own mind, and rest in the arms of the Almighty.
He was still hungry. The tiredness didn’t leave. The death threats remained. But Elijah was no longer hiding alone. He lifted his eyes and saw his God, strong to save, good to all, and faithful to His promises, forever. Let the weary come wonder at the greatness of the Lord and find relief.
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.