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
Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s that time of year to ready the garden for the (long) winter. It means cutting back and covering over, and it often means wintering over. I’ve not had much success with wintering over plants, but this year I have renewed enthusiasm to give it a try, to provide safe harbour from the winter’s cold for my geraniums and hibiscus that have blessed me with such beautiful blooms and luscious leaves this summer.
Harbour. The word brings visions of boats tucked in and moored within the protection of a small cove while the storm passes. Ships clinging by tether to docks, passengers and captains and pilots bustling up and down the gangway, the smell of fresh paint and the sound of hammers swooshing and drills whining, the weaving around hobby fishermen with their lines dipped in lapping water. It too gives greater texture to the expressions like safe harbour, harbouring a fugitive, not the brightest light in the harbour, and harbouring a grudge or resentment.
“Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
(John 14:27, The Message)
Much can happen while in the harbour. The wise use of time spent there can be to great advantage. Vessels can be repaired and renewed and restocked. Plans and course direction can be revisited and revised. Opportunity for renewal, if you will. But does the vessel remain forever tethered in a harbour? Unlikely. Ships are meant to lift anchor and set out to sea; meant to sail to fulfill their purpose. If they remain forever in the harbour, they become at best dormant tourist attractions, at worst chunks of rot and rust floating in the water.
Hmmm… I often spend waaay too much time dry-docked on judgement in the harbour, on unforgiveness and nursing wounds so much they can become grudges. Clinging to the dock of guilt, of resentment. Surely not a wise use of my time whilst in this safe and protected cove of recovery, of opportunity for renewal. No, many of those times whilst anchored I’ve failed to seize them as moments to rest, recoup and review; to reap godly wisdom, to develop godly character and integrity, to learn and lift anchor to move on; to hoist the sails and catch the winds of new vision that carry me to ports unknown, to embrace with renewed enthusiasm that which the Lord offers out to me like a treasure map.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Where I am, where I stay, is my choice. Mine, and no one else’s. Mine. Independent of circumstance and situation and what’s in other people’s heads and how they act. I am responsible for my choice, and its harvest. To remain anchored is to rust, at worst to be pointed at as a tourist attraction. To untether is to set the sails into the winds of hope and potential of adventure into the unknown. But to be very honest, I don’t know that choosing to untether and move forward means that I can force myself to fully forget what storm anchored me there in the first place. I don’t know that most of us are honestly entirely capable of that. Just yet anyway. What I think it means is this: strengthened by the Captain’s Hands around my own, stocked by Him with greater awareness, with greater wisdom, with seeds of integrity and godly character planted or fertilized or watered or a combination of all three, He and I together untie the tether that anchors me down to the dock. Freedom is mine in the choosing, in the agreeing to loosen the knot with the Captain’s help, in choosing to pardon: an act that will and really does liberate me too I soon find out. Freedom is mine in what follows that choice, for it ultimately brings relief as it releases responsibility into Hands that are more just, more willing, more able and more knowing than my own. I can use my freedom to choose to shout, “Lift anchor!” and to move forward in freedom, into freedom.
“If you choose to lock your heart away, you’ll lose it for certain.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Friends, we are not meant to stay anchored in the harbour! We may spend some time there, but we are not meant to become its permanent residents. Just as the geraniums and hibiscus are meant for the outdoors in the Spring, we are so meant for the wide open, to bloom and spread in the glorious vistas. We are meant to sail on the open seas, to breathe in the healthy salty air, to enthusiastically say “Aye!” to the Captain and trust the great Plan He steers by.
And His wind in our sails cannot move us if we choose to remain tethered to the dock.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:36, New Revised Standard Version)
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
(Galatians 5:1, New Revised Standard Version)
Soil and Seed
“Whoa!” my son exclaimed with delight as he and I watched the show from under cover of our balcony, “that last one was a doozy!” After days and days of gloriously hot sunshine and cobalt-blue skies, we were blessed with a thunderstorm, and it was a humdinger. Lightening tore through the night sky to expose the bright glare of the heavens, and thunder rumbled, cracked and clapped. Enormous drops of rain plopped and plunked to the ground in urgent rapid-fire, bouncing up in discordant dance before being swallowed up by the dry landscape and sewers.
Thunderstorm. I remember how, as a very young child, that one word sent cold shivers of fear up my spine. I’d quiver as I’d hear its rumblings in the distance, and bolt for cover to hunker down to bear through the nerve-wracking crashing and booming.
“Come on!” she’d excitedly whisper. “Let’s celebrate!” and she’d pull me under the awning on the stoop as the storm rumbled and cracked around us. “Let’s dance and praise!” she’d whoop and hoot, jumping and leaping in the joyful song and triumph of it all.
Fear seemed to give way to curiosity, and I soon couldn’t help but giggle and join in. Here was my Nanna, my amazing Grandmother shaking and boogying with such exuberance, and with a smile as wide as her laugh was deep. Hand in hand, we waltzed and shimmied, oohing with every flash, and erupting with laughter as thunder shook beneath our feet. We’d count the seconds between jagged streak of lightening and the roll of thunder to determine how close its approach or retreat. “And watch just how brilliant green the leaves and grass, and how vivid and lush and vibrant the colors in the garden when it’s all over!” she’d exclaim. Later, we’d wring out and towel off over a cup of warm milk, and I’d head to bed refreshed and relaxed. Sure enough, the next morning the garden sparkled with zesty fullness and hue as if freshly painted. All through my childhood we’d together listen for the cue of distant rumbling and jitter and jive before God during many a “Cloudburst Cantata”! Delicious!
Many a storm has rumbled and loomed on the horizon, yet flashbacks of our tangos patter as mist in the halls of my memory.
“Don’t fear the rumble for you are safe,” she’d say.
Don’t be startled by the flashes, nor frightened by the thunder for it will surely pass. Allow Jesus to take the lead as hand in Hand you sway and waltz, for even within its flashing and rumbling He drenches with His thrilling goodness. Keep both eyes and ears on Him as together you break through the dark clouds, refreshed and renewed. And look! How gloriously vibrant and vivid the lush landscape before you!
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He quieted the wind down to a whisper, put a muzzle on all the big waves. And you were so glad when the storm died down, and he led you safely back to harbor. So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
(Psalm 107: 28-31)
Soil and Seed