All in a Day’s Work for the Gardener

Don’t you just love how God teaches us about Himself in the simplest but often more-complex-than-they-seem-on-the-surface type of ways? He chose to teach us so many things about His character through the simple picture of a Shepherd tending his flock of sheep. Jesus also tells us that He is the true Vine (in whom we are to remain) and we are the branches…and that His Father is the gardener. (**sigh**) I am going to deviate for a second – but I have a point!

Since this is the first time in over a year that we are going to be living in one place for more than 18 months, I was excited to grow an herb garden to save a little money on groceries and add an extra punch of fresh nutritious flavor to our meals. So far, all I invested in was this basil plant. Obviously, it is looking a little gangly since I have not yet developed or fine-tuned my green thumb.

BASIL

When learning about my own “gardening needs” according to scripture recently, I was drawn to search for tips on helping my sad basil plant. As it turns out, harvesting basil is the key to keeping it healthy. When harvesting it, you have to cut the leaves off just above the second set from the ground. According to this article I was amazed to find that “the single stalk will now end here, and two new branches will now bud and grow from the set of leaves you left behind.” What seemed like it might kill off my plant actually doubles its productivity – wow! Unfortunately, as you can see in my loved but naively neglected little plant, I did not prune it, but only plucked some bottom leaves in efforts to not hinder it from growing…WRONG! And  – it sprouted flowers. Instead of taking action like a knowledgeable experienced gardener, I thought “good for it!” Boy was I wrong again! Apparently as I sat down to research and write this post this very morning, I learned that once the Basil plant produces buds, you are to nip it in the bud if you want your Basil plant to stay healthy…otherwise it will die as they are annual plants meaning they grow only one season before dying. ;( As I read that my mouth dropped open and I ran and snatched those stupid flowers off my plant…I will let you know I guess if I was too late. Darn.

Where in the world am I going with this? I know I know… I am getting to the point. 😉 According to the Bible, God our Father is the gardener in our hearts and minds when we follow Him, and He desires His followers to bear [much] good fruit! (John 15:8) He says that His disciples are recognized by their fruit. What is this fruit? Obedience, the spread of the Good News and addition of new believers, love, and/or Christian character most commonly known as the Fruit of the Spirit. Likewise, false prophets and those who profess to believe but do not will also be known by their fruit, or lack there of.  We can only bear good fruit or bad fruit, and in order to bear good fruit we must seek, endure correction, and be willing to be pruned of any potential bad fruit caused by sin. Like my basil plant, when we are properly pruned all potential death-causing flowers are kept from blooming. 😉

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO ALLOW GOD TO PRUNE AWAY OUR BAD FRUIT AND NIP IT IN THE BUD IN ORDER FOR US TO PRODUCE THE GOOD FRUIT AND BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL. AND SOMETIMES HE MUST UPROOT IT ENTIRELY.

Recently I was in need of some uprooting. Occasionally, I tend to get a decorating idea in my head and it all too quickly becomes an obsession that clouds any financially responsible, logical or reasonable judgement. Before long I was obsessed and googling some items for a perfect summer table-scape. Sounds innocent right? Yea I thought so too. I told my self all kinds of innocent reasoning to justify why I must have it and have it completed now. But as He often does, God in His loving kindness was bound to reveal some heart issues deep down so that he could begin His gardening work. Sometimes I am stubborn. After an hour of online shopping, planning, and asking for early Birthday presents from Mom and Dad (no purchases made yet), I began my quiet time studying God’s Word. It is hilarious to me that I glanced right over anything suggesting I needed to look at God’s Word regarding my heart and its temptations in this particular situation, but at one point it was so obvious I chuckled. I had decided to begin reading through the Bible on a 1 year plan, and God hilariously brought me on Day 1 (I should’ve known) to the very first woman and her fall to temptation. I have read, studied and even taught on this story in the Bible multiple times, but today it applied in a particular way. Matthew Henry’s Commentary noted

         “The place fixed for Adam to dwell was not a palace but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach innocency. Nature is content with a little…but lust craves everything and is content with nothing.”

Okay Lord, I am listening, I wrote in my journal. Multiple and separate books I picked up kept addressing the compulsive tendency for people to crave stockpiling things. I am not usually this way, but I knew I was fitting in perfectly at this point in my mission to decorate my table. The commentary boldy went on to say that Adam when he participated in the first sin “plainly showed contempt of what God bestowed on him and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience.” Ouch. I realized something in my heart was off…in the wrong place…wanting something that wasn’t innately wrong, but wanting it for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately I knew I had deceived myself (since all sin involves believing a lie) somewhere along the way and that I needed God’s help to show me where my wrong thinking was rooted so we could uproot it. I prayed that through the continuance of reading He would unmask the deception in my heart.

So what is the good news in the commentary when we find ourselves walking down this path with Adam and Eve (as I sure did)? “Sooner or later, it (sin) will bring shame, either shame of true repentance which ends in glory (best case scenario), or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day (I think we can agree this is the worst case scenario). See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned. They have more care to save their credit before men that to obtain their pardon from God.” Wow. I realized an ugly sin struggle from my past was manifesting itself in a new way here. Immediately I believe God showed me the root of my problem. Actually he showed me the seed and the whole blasted plant so that maybe I could share it with you, share a laugh, and help us remember that all bad fruit begins deep in our hearts with a seed and whole elaborate but sneaky process before sprouting into sin. I introduce to you from my own journal – my “Sin-flower“. You love the name at least – right? 😉

Sin-Flower

1.) The Seed  of my Sin- Unbelief

I am humbled and convicted to begin more-actively exercising belief in all areas after being reminded by this article that the root of all sin is unbelief. I know this article calls it the root of all sin…but for my post and illustration – it is the seed. The very beginning. Unbelief that God is enough. In my case, it was – as the article author said – “refusal to believe in the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ–we’re not believing that, by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, everything we need and long for, we already possess.” If He provides something as insignificant as table decor for me – whoopty-do. Who actually cares? What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things? I know this may be such a ridiculous example, but I believe God knew it was a teachable moment for this child and that I would share it with you! :)

2.) The Root: Pride + Insecurity

I hate this one. All of my life I have struggled with insecurity entangled with pride. I want to impress people (pride) and, when I think others will be unimpressed or that I will be embarrased, I am insecure. This struggle mainly used to manifest in how I valued myself based on my self-image and performance as a photographer and I spent a good portion last year seeking God to help free me from that wrong-thinking with the truth of who I am in Him. So having already battled this, I was less than excited to see this lack of confidence in who God says I am popping up in how I feel about my household. After 5 moves in 5 years our furniture is looking less than snazzy. Chunks of certain furniture pieces are actually missing after this last move. I knew it made no sense logically to toss our furniture and replace it since this will not be the last of our moves and life will continue to wear on any furniture, so I wanted to try and do the next best thing to try and prevent myself from feeling insecure when having visitors. In my silly little way, apparenty table decorations would save the day. Gee.

3.) The Leaves

Matthew Henry notes on this story of Adam and Eve that “The excuses men make to cover and lessen their sin, are vain and frivolous; like the aprons of fig leaves (like Adam and Eve made), they make the matter never the better: yet we are all apt to cover our transgressions as Adam.”  The leaves of my own sin-flower were so appropriately compared to the leaves of Adam and Eve. They were my excuses or reasons I needed these innocent decorations. They were my attempts to justify, or cover, my wrong-thinking. And I did such a good job at this it is scary. I mean, it took taking a long time and a deep look to see the wrong in my heart after repeating things like “I just want a pretty table setting for when my family is here,” (why I must get it NOW), and “I am not asking for new furniture, so this is minor,” and manipulating the financial responsibility of purchasing something outside our decided budget by asking for an “early birthday present.”

4.) The Stem : Discontentment + Ungratefulness

When we focus on what we don’t have rather than all God has blessed us with, how discontent we become! How ungrateful we become for what God has so graciously and generously bestowed upon us as He sees fit for our best interest. Like holding the reins of a run away horse with white knuckles, before I knew it I was in a place of discontentment, a place I did not intend to be. Once I realized where I was, I had ask God to help me to skid to a stop.

5.) The Bud : Lust for things

I know it looks like a flower in my photo. Maybe it is. But I would like to say the bud of my sin-flower, or the progression of my bad fruit bearing, was the beginning of the actual obsession – my lust for things. Funny it was the last thing produced but the first thing I became aware of – and God had to work His way backwards from there. Lusting for things has not been a frequent routine for me as much as other things, so I am praying God keeps this from becoming a pattern in my life. While I believe He could nip this thing in the bud, I pray that He help me uproot every ugly destructive part of this weed so that I can only bear good fruit to His glory (John 15:8).

Perhaps the most beautiful thing in this messy experience for me was having lies revealed and holding my situation up to the light of the truth. As true as John 8:32 says, as soon as I was reminded of the truth and I allowed it to become a lens through which to view my desires, it was freeing. I was finally able to let my obsession go. Does this mean I wasn’t curious when an Ebay seller wrote me back or that I will never get a tablescape? Probably not. But it does mean I realized that when I do make any purchases or develop a desire things, it will not be a polite demand for things my way and in my timing. I want it to be in a healthy way and purchased with a pure heart and circumstances not manipulated by me. As you might imagine, I wrote my Mom (she and Bryan always get a laugh at my painstakingly humbling struggles) and shared this whole process with her concluding with “I do not want any decorations for my birthday anymore…but I do need a prayer journal since mine is filling up faster than expected.” 😀 Oh my life – tell me I am not the only one.

John 15:2, in light of the Greek translation broken down here, can be paraphrased as “…moreover for those in Him bearing fruit He will cleanse or purge of any undesirable elements so they can bear even more fruit of higher value”  Doesn’t that sound worth it?! I think if it could, even my basil plant would agree. 😉

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear from you! Email me! :)

 

 

 

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