Updated: Jan 11, 2020
I haven't written in a while. My mind (read: my life) has been on a fast trajectory lately. Both personally and professionally I have been pedal to the metal-- traveling, late nights, early mornings, conflict, and some unexpected tragedy has me in survival mode. Writing has not only been my outlet, but it's be a sacred place where I can pause and sort myself out. It's a place where I can tell the demands of the world no for half an hour. It's amazing how telling those things to wait while I give my first moments of my day to God somehow miraculously make all the other things fall into place. I don't mean that I am given another hour in a day or a bunch of stuff gets cancelled. I mean I can suddenly differentiate the important from the unimportant and the urgent from non-urgent.
Since I haven't been committed to this, my life hasn't been going well.
Life will ask all of us to recalibrate sometime. In fact, there is no way we can stay on course in every area every day. A combination of my own undoing and circumstances out of my control created several unraveling areas of my life and I didn't know where to start to pick up the pieces. I don't know how it is for other people, but for me, not knowing where to start is usually step one of giving up. You hear people say "you don't have to know every step, just begin!" I truly believe that, but when you feel like things are upside-down, the last thing you want to do is to try something while you're weak in spirit. A weak spirit will not buy into a "fail your way forward" mentality. You're tired of the fails. You want something to go right. You just need a win.
I once heard Jeremy Foster of Hope City Church say "we should never despise the things that drag us to the foot of the cross." While I don't want to be dragged to the foot of the cross, I did started praying Jeremy's wisdom. Even though my spirit was weak and my attitude was reluctant, I stopped asking for a burden to be taken from me. Instead I acknowledged the opportunity for God to show me another territory that His love and favor can cover. I told God that I knew this milestone would take me places that I couldn't go on my own. Even though I said the words, I was still weak and reluctant.
I think I show God my worst behavior during a waiting period. My faith, patience, and joy are so small. I trust God's timing! I have done enough damaged in my own life to know that my timing isn't good. But, I just want to pout until the prayer is answered. Here's the truth-- pouty people can't be used in God's purpose. Pouty people demand to be rescued from the hole they voluntarily crawled into. The world of a pouty person only gets smaller and smaller-- less influence, less love, less joy. So how do we combat pouting, self-absorption, and obsession over our own problems? The answer: Generosity.
If you've read my blog at all you have read this before: for every plan the Lord makes, Satan makes an opposite plan. The reason life is so hard is because Satan will make these plans around things meant to bless us: money, influence, health, children, marriage.... evil has a plan for all of it. I am mature enough in my faith to know that a tough time is an opportunity to get closer to God. In this case, that opportunity was quickly turning toward a life of isolation, anger, and hopelessness. It's so hard to see these tendencies in yourself, especially when you feel like your survival depends on your ability to pour all your energy into self-care. Depleted, I walked into a Wednesday night church service where Dr. John Maxwell was giving the message. His message was titled "Living Generously" (link below). Let me just say I LOVE John Maxwell. I read his books, I listen to his podcast, and I watch or attend anything he is attending. But my weak and reluctant attitude did not want to hear about generosity. Generosity is a typical Christmas time sermon, so I wasn't surprised when John sat down and said he wanted to talk about generous living. But my spirit sighed and thought well, I hope some of these folks are more capable than I am to apply this message.
In typical John Maxwell fashion, he immediately quoted about ten different scriptures where generosity is not only an example that Christ set for us, but it is an expectation from the Lord:
Psalm 105- He made the people very fruitful after years of captivity
Psalm 145:16- You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalm 53:2-- God looks for those who seek Him
Romans 10:11-- Anyone who believes in Him will never regret it
Deuteronomy 15:10-- Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
1 Tim 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
Philippians 4:8-9-- whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.
2 Corinthians 9:8-- And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Ok, got it. He increases us so we can increase others. I'm not being increased right now so I'm probably exempt from this. But then John touched on the difference in a seed and a harvest. John said a person who is truly joyful and generous spends more time and energy on the seeds they sow, not on the harvest they reap. I can't say I've never heard some paraphrased version of that, but when I heard it this time, my mind was open to a new vision. I thought three things:
While a harvest is a product of patience and hard work, it is gone the minute the crop is picked. However, the seed can outlast the sower. Unlike the harvest, the seed is full of potential! It still has the power to grow and cultivate more seed. Look at the legacy of Abraham. If he could have seen the seeds that were sown in his name, he would still be alive!
Matthew 13 when Jesus tells the parable of the sower. Jesus talks about how a seed full of potential must fall on fertile ground. He says that seeds that fall along the path never take root. They are quickly snatched up by birds or kicked around by the traffic and forgotten (faith that falls on deaf ears). Seeds that fall on rocky places spring up quickly but are scorched by the sun because they have no depth to their roots (faith that is eagerly accepted then abandoned during a hard time). Seeds that fall on thorns have lots of potential but the thorns outgrow and overpower their growth (faith that is ruined by worry or selfish ambition). The seed that remains falls on good soil that "yields a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown." (Matt 13:23) Later on in verses 24-29, Jesus calls Satan "the weeds". Acknowledging that fertile soil can also cultivate the growth of weeds. Just like I said before: every blessing given from God will also become a breeding ground for the plan Satan has devised. In the parable, the workers ask the farmer if they should pull up the weeds. The farmer says no because they might prematurely pull up the crop too. He says to let both grow together and in the harvest the two will be separated: one to be collected for feasting and one to be burned.
That's it! I'm just in the weeds! I thought. I'm just hard-pressed right now, doing everything I can but I must coexist with these weeds until my harvest time comes. As I read this parable again, I realized that's not true. I am not in the weeds, pushing and thriving toward the sunlight despite the growing nuisances around me. I'm letting my faith be choked in the thorns.
Understand the difference in weeds and thorns:
-Weeds mean your soil is fertile, thorns mean your soil is course.
-Weeds might grow tall, but they can't produce a crop. Thorns can make sure a crop's potential is destroyed in it's early stages of growth.
-Weeds create a testimony. Your growth despite the weeds will mark a lifetime of chasing after God while the devil chased after you to no avail. Thorns imprison and isolate, creating an obstacle that seems too painful to overcome.
-Weeds will be separated from the crop and burned in due time. The seed submits to the thorns and thus must be rescued.
I wrote this in my Bible next to that parable: "I do not fear the weeds, for they are they are a weak enemy. I can't choose where he pops up, I can only choose to keep sowing. However, a change in terrain is my choice. The path, the thorns, and the rocks are my decision to turn away from God." God let's us sow alongside weeds because it's an opportunity to show how powerful He is among adversity. Even Satan knows his weeds won't prevail, which is why our own self-destruction is so powerful. Becoming a beaten down path, a rocky surface, or a patch of thorns takes us out of the game. Pastor Chris Hodges says it this way "I don't think the devil minds that you're a Christian, I don't think he even minds if you pray, what he wants most is to make sure you aren't trying to attract more people to do the same." He wants a self-implosion that causes loss in all confidence that I can be used to sow seeds and attract people to Heaven. When I am depleted, uncertain, and frustrated, generosity is the antidote. In the midst of the weeds, can I still freely give love, forgiveness, money, talents, joy, and positivity? If I choose to do those things, wouldn't that also build me back up? This behavior is attractive and should be a mark of someone that knows God. The Message version of Matthew 5:48 says it this way: “You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Use this upcoming holiday season to take some inventory of your soil. If seeds are sown around you, are they forgotten quickly? Abandoned in times of trouble? Overpowered by anxiety? Put on that God-created identity and behave like the kingdom subject you are-- one that has more than enough to go around and refreshes himself by refreshing others.