Colossians 2:19b (the message)
We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.
Over the past couple of days I have thought about how my heart, my life, is truly like soil. Then I remembered how Jesus tells a parable about different kinds of ground in Matthew chapter 13. He describes the different kinds of ground and how the seed the farmer scatters is received. The only soil that produces a healthy crop is the one that is “good,” without weeds and rocks and that is not hard. So, yes…my heart is like soil, or ground, with the potential to produce healthy living when cared for, tended and nourished properly. Sometimes I read my Bible and forget He’s talking to me, not just other people. Smile…
I guess my thoughts went this direction as I considered the ups and downs I’ve experienced, and shared on this blog!, over the past many months. I had been frustrated at times because I couldn’t understand why I was struggling internally. What had changed? I was still reading my Bible, praying, going to church and volunteering (though on a much smaller scale since having Leighton). As I shared yesterday, my “doing” was not producing what it once had in my life…the “good crop” of healthy, Holy Spirit fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, etc, was looking mighty puny at times. Shriveled up, even.
Recently I stumbled across a book that caught my attention. As I began to read I was so convicted. As in stop reading and go to my bedroom and repent. What God is showing me, what He sweetly is reminding me of, is that nothing can get between Him and I…this intimate daily connection…except me. There is no circumstance, no tough season of life, no other person that can come between His nearness and my heart. The only person that can do that, again, is me. Self. As in myself. My self-reliance. My self-pity. My self-absorption. And isn’t this such an easy and common trap for us all? Such a fine line to be crossed in dealing with challenges in life and before we know it our focus is completely fixed on ourselves. And then we wonder where the peace went? They joy? So, naturally (at least for me) we start to try to “fix” whatever went wrong. But you know what? It’s not a matter of repairing ourselves, doing more, trying harder or even giving up. It’s a matter of soil.
The soil of our hearts.
In the parable I mentioned, Jesus describes how in some soil the seed is scattered but the cares and worries of life choke out any growth. If our hearts are like ground to be worked, soil to be cultivated, we need to understand it’s not a once and for all deal. Just because our heart is healthy, our soil is free of weeds and rocks and it’s rich with nourishment from intimacy with God, doesn’t mean it will stay that way if we don’t continue to let God tend to us everyday. For me, some care and worry weeds started popping up. I was tired and discouraged and confused. I lost sight of the simplicity in the verse above. I can only continue to grow and produce healthy, good fruit and enjoy my life fully as God nourishes me through Jesus. I can’t make myself healthy, but I can let the God who made me and loves me do it. I can offer myself, my heart’s soil, and respond to Him in obedience and trust.
We can be encouraged from the verse above! Paul is describing a growth process…what I call a journey. We can grow up healthy in God, but only as he (Jesus) nourishes us. Like little children, like my Leighton now 10-months-old playing with blocks on the floor as I write, we can grow up. Learn to crawl. Learn to walk. Eventually run with Him. Learn to listen for and recognize His voice. Learn to obey and trust. As we spend time with Jesus, authentic and genuine time, we can be nourished and grow up healthy.
We have a small garden. My husband and his dad have a friendly competition each year to see who produces the biggest tomatoes and the nicest looking squash, etc. They trade text messages with pictures of countertops filled with healthy veggies grown in their own yards. Still shocking to my own ears to hear, I have learned how to use a pressure cooker for canning some of the tomatoes my husband grows. I enjoy the fruits of his work, but I can’t say I would go to all that trouble. Yes, I can certainly tell a difference between fresh tomatoes and canned from the store. But would I spend the time and do the work he does every year for the benefits of fresh and healthy produce? No, I wouldn’t. If he didn’t make it a goal and a priority to check the pH of the soil, to add different elements needed, to till it up and dig out the rocks (I have helped with this part many times!) and then plant and water the seeds, my countertop would not be filled with squash, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. When a tomato stake breaks in a storm, he gets out there right away to repair it. When deer (yes, deer!) helped themselves to a meal, my husband built an electic wire fence around his garden. Shannon prizes his garden. Tends to it with great care. He cares for it, does whatever it takes to help it be all it can be every year.
God wants to do the same for us. It’s hard because sometimes we feel like we need to be the soil and the farmer. Like a one-man or one-woman show! As if we could hold up our lives and say, Look God! Look at what I did and grew for you! No, I cannot see or understand the dangers and threats to my healthy living that God can, but if I’ll listen He will set up a fence, or boundary, for me through His Word that tells me how to live. I cannot see with clarity the quality of my heart’s soil at times. I might think it’s ready for growing good fruit and producing healthy living, but He will see the tiniest seed of selfishness in one of its many forms that needs to be uprooted. I might not notice the rocks in the far reaches of my heart that make the soil hard…places I have yet to let Him till and turn over with His truth and love. Or I might see them but be willing to leave them there, not able to see or understand how they affect my life. But God sees. And like Shannon with his garden, God wants to do the work only He can do in the soil of my heart. I cannot nourish myself in and of myself. I am foolish to think I can see, on my own, the true state of my heart. “Self” is extremely hard to see yet it’s the number one cause of the weeds and rocks and hardness that develop in our lives.
If ever the spring comes and the ground begins to protest as Shannon does his work I’ll be sure to blog about it. Smile. Because surely, every year without fail, there is work to be done. After a winter of disuse the ground is hard and would produce little, if anything, good. My heart can be like that ground. Except my Heavenly Father takes the time to lovingly tend to me every single day of my life if I let Him. When I don’t, it doesn’t take long for weeds to take root. And when I ignore the weeds they multiply and by the time my soil-sickness is raging the process becomes much more painful to my “self.” Yet, like my hubby, I prize the good fruit. I’ve enjoyed the summer-sweetness of joy and peace in my life…I’ve tasted the nectar of kindness and patience growing in my family…I’ve shared the snapshots of my life’s countertop filled to overflowing with the blessings of Jesus-nearness.
I will only grow, or continue to grow, as I am nourished by Jesus. In an honest-to-goodness, do what you want to do with me, I just want to be near You kind of time with Him. When He weeds my heart’s soil, when He stirs in passion and desire, when He adds great doses of His love and grace, and even when He sifts for rocks by testing my motives through obedience, I find myself offering up more of my heart. Realizing, again, God is the loving Farmer and my life a precious plot of ground.
Only Jesus is truly good and only He can grow the good stuff. I can’t do what He can do, but I can choose to let Him do it.