My Landscaping is not unlike my heart.
So, this season of life has rewritten a lot of things in our life. The household being one of them. For those of you reading this who are married, you understand how this works. Though the household is a joint responsibility of everyone, there are certain things that become the domain of the individual, at least primarily. For instance, I do a lot of the grocery shopping, lawn mowing, bill paying. Jen does a lot of the cleaning, pet care, and takes care of the garden and landscaping.
Oh, the way things change. Lawn care I understand. Mowers, power tools… these are things that I know and understand. Or at least I pretend to know them. But weeds… those deeply rooted, ingrown, overtaking everything weeds… these taught me a whole lot about myself, in some pretty profound ways.
These lessons aren’t new or earth-shattering. But they were pretty enlightening to me.
- Lesson #1… If it comes out easy, odds are you didn’t really get it. I fooled myself in my weed pulling excursion. At first things were coming up really easy, and I felt a bit of snarky pride. This isn’t so hard, I mused to myself. I wonder why this hadn’t been done sooner. And then I looked closer. Upon closer inspection, the grassy weeds had roots that went sometimes a foot or more to the radius extending out from the root that I so easily and smuggly “nabbed”. Oh. This isn’t is as easy as I thought. This is actually really hard. So it is in my own heart. Sometimes, I rejoice a bit too quickly in the “victory”… only to lament when day, hours, or (minutes) later my problems come back.
- Lesson #2… Sometimes good dirt gets thrown out with bad weeds. Be careful, I thought. You don’t want to upset the surroundings. HA. That lasted all of 5 minutes. Soil that is infested with weed roots may look dark and lush. But it isn’t. Sometimes, you just need to toss it out.
- Lesson #3… Ruthless weeding rips up everything, and exposes how deep the problem goes. I knew what i had to do. I had to get my hand up under the weed core, and lean back with all my might and pull as hard as I could. I was amazed at how much weed was pulled out when I went after the root of the problem. So many things were intertwined. But, I learned something else as well…
Perhaps the final lesson was the one that I learned at the conclusion of my weed pulling exercise. It is impossible to do all of the weed pulling in one sitting. I was exhausted. I was spent. I couldn’t finish the entire bed in one day.
Kind of like my heart. The garden of my heart will never stay weed free… and to keep the weeds at bay, it takes constant effort.
But, here is the difference.
In my heart, I can only see the weeds, and cry out for help. Sometimes, I don’t even know they are there until they are being pulled out. Jesus through the Holy Spirit must come in and show me the weeds, and through his power conform my heart in to the image of himself. I can only repent of my inability to stop the weeds, and trust Jesus to constantly rip the weeds from my heart. Because my heart cherishes the weeds. But Jesus cherishes me.
A coin flip. That doesn’t so so scary.
Heads or tails. Seems simple enough.
50/50 shot. That sounds a little different. It means that 50% of the time, things don’t work the way they do the other half of the time. And there it is.
The chance of our baby making it is roughly a coin flip. Heads, you win, tails, you lose. Maybe happy, maybe not.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of my series Divinely Appointed Destruction, I have been exploring the nature of God’s character and his covenant faithfulness. And so what ever happens in a coin flip situation, it is not a matter of something being out of God’s control.
Simple. Proverbs 16:33 (ESV) says this: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” That means even in situations where “chance” would play, it doesn’t. First of all, God is completely sovereign. In every situation. All the time. And the secondly, the character and purposes of God don’t change in the midst of life. Because God is good, and does what is good. Every time. That doesn’t mean that this won’t end tragically. That doesn’t mean this will end tragically either. It just means that even in this uncertainty, the odds may be medically 50/50, but the outcome is 100% glory to God in Christ.
But as we wait, the journey continues.
Today was our 20 week trip to the doctor for my wife, Jen. Though a normal pregnancy would not have us going to the doctor quite as often this early, ours has not been normal. If you are new to the blog and not sure exactly what is going on, go here to read the back story. Here is where we are now.
Is holding. Bedrest has been good, and the amniotic sac seems to have retreated… a little. This is fantastic news. She is still on strict bedrest, because we are by no means out of the woods. But medically, at least from the picture we saw today, things have not gotten worse.
This guy is causing a bit more concern for us. Because of its position and the fact that the baby’s placenta is wrapped around it, it would seem that the most tenuous problem lies here. The placental tissue is inherently weakened at the site where it and the fibroid meet. Our doctor thinks that at this juncture there is a 50/50 chance for the baby. The most common issue with that fibroid is that it would cause a placental abruption, and the baby would bleed out and die.
Our doctor said there isn’t a darn thing we can do medically. Only the hand of God can hold that placenta in place.
Yes and amen. Prayer is what is going to keep that baby. The sovereign, merciful hand of God is what is going to sustain that baby. This child has always been, and will always be, his. Pray that Jen and I can see that in the midst of this process.
Jen is doing… ok. Please pray for her, especially her neck, as all the laying has caused a lot of tension to build up. Our doctor has cleared her to see some specialists to try and loosen that neck up; pray that it would.
Jen and I both thank you for how you have stood by us in this process. As we journey in to the unknown, we do so together, safe and secure in the arms of a loving and merciful God. No matter what happens, we will rejoice, because God has counted us worthy to share in the story that He is writing in this way.
I’ve been considering a lot of things recently. Why am I so averse to change? Why do I not want to think about all that God is doing in terms of what we are facing as not being about my child, or my wife, but about me? In Part 1 of this series, I quoted Matt Chandler in saying “If God loves you, he is going to expose you… and ruin your world for the sake of your heart…”
This of course led me to ask the question. Knowing that God loves me, what does that love look like? How do I quantify some characteristics of God in his love for me?
The scriptures are full of promises and precepts about the nature and character of God’s covenant making and covenant keeping love for his people. The Prophet Jeremiah clearly communicates this point in chapter 29 and verse 11:
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God is not simply revealing to Jeremiah pithy truths as a spiritual pick me up, rather he is showing them part of his nature and character. He is relentlessly pursuing his people, precisely because he loves them.
He is going to expose me
Before we get to the idea of “ruin”, we need to get to the heart of “love” and “exposure”. The love of God could best be described as God’s hesed, or covenant faithfulness. What does this term mean?
Covenant Faithfulness: God’s Hesed
Though many scholars have developed the idea of hesed on the human plane, the focus of our discussion here will be on the divine plane. The most central aspect to the divine aspect is that it is driven by “the importance of a prior commitment or bond” (NIDOTTE 2, 213). Through this commitment or bond, there are several key factors that develop as a result. First, the divine aspect of hesed “saves people from disaster or oppressors” (NIDOTTE 2, Ibid.). The writers of Scripture, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are communicating to the intended audience that life is indeed fragile, and that God’s people are constantly surrounded by the threat of violence, nature, enemies, and in fact even the very self, which has been permanently and totally marred by the fall. They reveal to us that it is God’s character, based out of his loving-kindness, which saves his people. The Psalms are full of this motif, communicating in every way possible great thanksgiving for the fact that God has rescued the Psalmist from calamity or disaster (Ibid.). This divine hesed is also seen as life-sustaining (NIDOTTE 2, 214). Not only is life sustained in a temporal sense, but also a generational sense. God’s faithful commitment to his people is a sure foundation upon which they can rest and hope; the covenant that God made with Abraham is still very much in place, and as a result, God’s people turn to it as a bedrock promise of their faith.
Not only does God’s covenant faithfulness sustain life, but it also eases God’s wrath. It is in these times when God himself is “tempted” (anthropomorphically, to be sure) to run the other way, it is his hesed that brings him back (Ibid.). God’s covenant faithfulness is “enduring, persistent, even eternal.” This means that, as we see in Isaiah 54:10, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” We see the contrast between mountains falling to the ground, yet God’s covenant faithfulness remaining true even in light of all of this. Interestingly enough, God’s hesed is regarded as the basis or motive for petition or approach to God, as well as a motif that occupies a prominent role in the inner and communal life of Gods people. The hesed is something that both “guides [the people] to God… and characterizes his teaching of them”.
What does this mean? When God says that he knows the thoughts and plans he has for us, he is telling us this out of his fundamental faithfulness to his people. No matter what God does to his people, his exposure of them and his love towards them is certainly motivated out of his faithfulness, understanding that he is not going to let his people go for anything or anyone. The hope that we have is that he is invested in his people for the sake of his glory. He has staked his very own life on it in his Son.
What This All Means For Us
So not matter what happens, we can rejoice because it is this God that is relentlessly pursuing us. He isn’t the mean, vindictive God that we all want to think he is when things go wonky. He is ferociously committed to his own glory, and to his people being formed in to the image and likeness of his son. But that doesn’t mean that he will let us go in our rebellion without getting our attention. But that is for next time.
What about you? What does the faithfulness of God look like in your life when things get crazy?
It’s summer time, and that means that I have a bit more time to read than I do in the peak of the liturgical/choral season. A friend recently recommended to me that I read A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, and so I have taken the task on of trying to work through the book. It would stand to reason, then, that I would get blown away by quotes from the book almost immediately. Paul Miller writes this in the opening chapter of the book:
“One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God. As a result, exhortations to pray don’t stick. (A Praying Life, pp. 16)
There it is in a nutshell. You and I are structurally built in such a way that because of the fall, we think we can pretty much carry on a normal, happy, healthy life without so much as a second thought given to prayer.
But why do we need prayer, anyway? Isn’t prayer just a means of “getting to know God better?” Shouldn’t we pray so that we can grow in our faith? All of these things are true, and all of these things are good. But why did Jesus pray?
Jesus didn’t pray because he somehow needed more information from God. Jesus prayed because he was demonstrating what “normal” is. Did you catch that? Normal. Not information download. Not duty. Nope. Jesus demonstrated to us that the first and foremost source of Joy in our lives comes from a perpetual communion with and communication between the Father and his children.
So perhaps, God is teaching us… teaching me… that prayer isn’t what we do to look piaus and Christian. Perhaps it is the undoing of my misguided complacency in my over-inflated competency. What about you?