Sometimes I wonder if, in the time God chooses to bring about His justice in a situation, He doesn’t also bring us (offender and offended) to the spiritual maturity to be ready for it when it comes. You know that period of time I’m speaking of? That period that seems to be stretched out like an elastic band as we impatiently wait for some sort of light on the horizon; while our spirits and minds and hearts remain crushed or tied up in knots? Well, I wonder if He doesn’t use the substance of this very chapter within His timing to our benefit; to guide and bring us to a place where we can genuinely accept and cooperate with Him when His justice dawns.
I wonder … It’s as if the (often painful) process of waiting contains a process within itself: a curriculum that follows a course designed to ready us for that Bright Day we ache to see, but one that entails steps that include the eviction of the poisons that infect our hearts and minds and spirits. And much like the regimen of any healthcare provider worth their mettle, our Gardener will expulse these contaminants by gently pressing on the super-sore-tender-spots to release and drain the toxic pus within so true regeneration can begin. He doesn’t do this for perverse pleasure, but so there instead can be bona fide healing upon which proper renewal and revival can soak into our hearts and minds and spirits, setting aright whatsoever has tripped up and wounded our bearings. Maybe readiness for His reparation requires complete absence of the foulness of septicity for it to be well-grounded and on solid footing.
Perhaps once there is no more ooze, only then I am really ready. Could it be too that at that precise moment (when perhaps all is aligned on all sides by Him?), His ruling takes place, and likely in a way more complete than I could have possibly imagined – and actually welcome?
Still, surely the Gardener’s Hand is in every moment leading up to that. It must be His Love that prods me toward that maturity. It must be His Hand pressing, solely because He so wants Health for us; wants that vile poison that clouds, that darkness that shrouds fully absent and far removed from us even more than we do, so we can spring forward in cooperation with His goodness!
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8: 22-23)
We need only glimpse at just about any newsfeed to know that we all share in the common denominator of suffering. Whether hidden or copiously obvious, each of us have an or many infected abscess(es), and judging by the groanings and cries resounding in this world founded deep in the hearts of offended and offender, I wonder and even dare to think our Father might surely be pressing on them – pressing not because He is mean, but because He longs to bring us relief, to heal us and make us whole. And with each press, we have a choice. Do I put my hand over it, rub it or stir it up and generate more poison, more infection? (and just how, do tell, does this serve me longterm?) Or do I take my hand off and let our God move in to press it all out and away?
But while He aches in our suffering, while He never turns away from us, still He remains a gentleman, urging and prodding and allowing us the choice to ease off, to relent and allow Him to step in. So, I wonder if the longer I hold my shaking hand over or rub the sore, the longer it will take …?? Hmm … Imagine though! What might happen when I remove my hand from that blistering boil? I do remember a like situation when I was suffering terribly as a child, in a lot of pain; even so I kind of did and I didn’t want the doctor to step in and help provide relief… But oh, when she did! So here too, sure there will undoubtedly be a bout of pain, but it will soon be followed by immense relief, and joy-filled thankfulness, and ahhhhh, freedom! And right then, we become at once renewed as we are a part of that renewal, at once rejuvenated as a part of pouring in rejuvenation, at once receiving Life as a one shining with it!
So maybe, just maybe, however soon we are to see restitution and resolution has a lot to do with us, with how soon we release our trembling hand that protects and defends the ulcer to God’s gentle, tender and mighty Hand … ?
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8: 24-25)
Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the Lord, will be your eternal light, more lasting than the sun and moon. (Isaiah 60:20)
Lord God, we are not puppets to You. No. We are your children. And You are our Loving Father – not loving us as the world calls or does love, but as our hearts and spirits ache and groan for. And yet, you love us even more than that! And in that very Love, your eyes are transfixed on us, and your Heart breaks as it sees our brokenness, our woundedness, our tender sores swollen with poison. Oh Father, how you run to heal comprehensively! Help our hearts to hear yours, to know Your safety and to lift our hands away from these open and oozing lesions that we tremble to defend and cover. Help us to see the Love and tear-filled determination in Your eyes as You lay your tender Hand upon each one’s surface and begin to gently press out the poison. Grant us the strength and the determination to stay the course, to keep our ears open to your Voice and eyes on Yours so that we come to smile and rejoice with You as the healing sunrise dawns on fuller Kingdom character and the glory, Your glory, of across-the-board renewal. Amen.
Soil and Seed
It is said that authors are considered good at their craft when they’ve managed to draw you in to their story, to connect you to the humanness of their characters; their inner struggles within their outward context, to their victory, and their victory in the overarching theme. They use many methods, many ‘literary devices’, all mixed together like a fine recipe concocted by these artisans to produce an aroma that patiently draws in the reader, teaching and activating their imagination and inquiring mind. And sometimes the reader becomes so caught up that they search out other sources for more context – cultural or environmental – to add textured background to the narrative.
Like I did.
Nazareth. The tiny little town of even tinier importance in Galilee in the northern region of Israel. An area of rocky terrain with clutches of flora and fauna. The might of Roman military everywhere. The violent Herod the Great as regional king. Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. Taxes on taxes. Peasants plugging away at a meagre living and food supply, often combining several channels of income through carpentry and other craft, as well as farming.
It is a time with many accepted norms of the day. Among them, that intimacy before marriage brought immense shame upon the family and was a punishable offence. By death. It was a time when the promise of marriage to another would mean you would spend your engagement period separated from your ‘betrothed’. Study of the practices at the time of Mary and Joseph reveal that young (probably late-teen-aged) Mary, soon to be wed to Joseph, would have been whisked away to have likely spent time the rest of her pre-wedding day-to-day in the sole company of women. It was very likely during this time she was visited by the angel Gabriel, and her scandalous puzzling pregnancy would begin to show and grow. Not only would she have had to have somehow manage to live through the raising of more than a few eyebrows, nosey questions, suspicions, rejection and alienation amongst the women with whom she lived (from the dead giveaway of first time she would not have participated in the ‘monthly purification rituals’), she would have had to consider honourable, devout and Law-abiding Joseph’s reaction as well. And quite possibly, Joseph might have been the last to know.
Will he believe me? The worry. Will he reject me? Will I be cast off and shamed for the rest of my life? The gulp. “He is an honourable man. I must tell him.” The rehearsing. “Joseph, I’m pregnant.” “Joseph! I have amazing news! I saw and spoke with an angel!” “Joseph, guess what? We’ve been chosen! An angel told me that we’re pregnant – with God’s Son!” The gulp. The screwing up of courage and setting out to see Joseph. The determination to keep focus and not run away.
Carpenter’s nails protruding from pursed lips. Clenched jaw in concentration. Hands and hair covered in sawdust. Feet buried in pillows of curls of wood. Marriage! Responsibility! Brow furrowed, thoughts focused, and beads of sweat trickling down the hairline. “Hmmm?” the preoccupied answer comes.
“Joseph,” comes the call with greater urgency. Brows knitted with worry and concern. Eyes searching his face. Hands tightly clasped. Oh thank the Father for the long robe! Knees shaking. Tummy showing? Heart beating out of chest. Shaking deep breath.
Deep mahogany eyes turn from the worktable. The smile. The hand caressing her velvet cheek. Heart captured by her beauty. Hmm? The smile fading. The glance down to what the slender hands are resting on. Mary? You’re … What? The hammer falling to the ground with a thud. The step back. How? Who? The mind racing. Surely now she belongs to another! Custom allows me to divorce her, for to take a child that is not mine is dishonourable. But it must be done quietly. Yes, I must quietly return her to her parents, spare her and her family the shame and exposure to the radical punishment of such a sin, of the prescribed stoning (Numbers 5).
But. The dream. The honour of God speaking directly to him! The affirmation of Mary’s wild, dizzying and astonishing story. The promise of a boy! The assigning his unborn child’s Name! The Name that means “God saves!” The joy! Fulfillment of ancient prophecy! The humble obedience. The conversation with the anxious Mary in quiet and reassuring tone. The decision to fulfill the marriage covenant. Census! The preparation for travel. The enduring of scorn and spitting and sneers and jeers in the village. The gentle care, the fierce protectiveness over Mary. The leaving in haste with his very pregnant betrothed.
The very long and arduous journey. The incessant bouncing up and down. Are we there yet? The twinges, the cramping, the increasing pain. The lights of the town ahead. The labour starting and progressing rapidly. The slow moaning.
The crowds. The yelps and increasing groanings from his wife. The hope of shelter. The frantic search. “Jo-SEPH!” Sir, do you have a room? Sorry. No room for you. Census don’t forget. Nope, not here. Nor here. Not anywhere. Wait. We have something. In the barn. With the animals. Interested?
The intense labour and the birth. The first cry. The wonder. What child is this, and what will his future be? Scorn. Shame. Revilement. Anger. Hatred. Rejection. Brutality. Evil spewing venom, pulling out all the stops to silence Him, as early as His first cry right up until his last breath.
Why for heaven’s sake? Why would He come? Why would He endure all this?
For our sake. For Love. For His immeasurable, unending and mind-blowing unconditional love for you, for me, for all of us. In Love’s Name, in its very nature, in its purity, in its hope, in its promise. For its very nature. To stand in our place so we can live in His.
All in that Babe, in that stable, in that feed box, on that cold damp night under that star so joyful and bright.
For all of us.
Will we make room from Him, for the wonder, for the mystery – in the inn of our hearts?
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Soil and Seed
My heart is safe with Jesus,
of this I can be sure.
He knows my deepest sorrows,
His love for me is the purest pure.
He knows my deepest joys and hurts;
my wounds he gently holds.
My past, my present, my future,
all in His devoted care enfolds.
My steps and path are fragrant;
a sacrifice as myrrh.
He walks and talks with me, cries and laughs with me.
In Him, with Him, and by Him I am secure.
He is my light and safety,
on Him alone can I rely.
Whatever harms or afflicts us,
these things He hates, derides.
These gardens of our hearts and souls, our spirits –
our landscape – its fellowship He most fervently loves.
He jealously protects and keeps us;
His goal: our complete (no less!) restoration – for us the bestest of the best thereof!
His is no absent Gardener!
Just look around and see!
Oh! How our Savior loves us!
His magnificent Creation outspread and cheers in all glorious glee!
Oh friend, in Him we find our refuge!
His voice let us harken, let us receive:
for if we are to truly, really flourish
not the world’s, but His ways must we enweave.
Our hearts are safe with Jesus –
of this we can be most confidently sure!
He is our only Saviour,
for in Him most fully, most surely, is our strength, our energy and stability to endure!
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7: 7-8)
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1, The Message)
Soil and Seed