I have not always flourished in every season of life, looking back I can see the wasted opportunities to establish my feet and bloom where I was planted. Loathing my circumstances, moaning about marriage stresses, complaining about an employer, leader, losing patience with and misunderstanding my children or parenthood, resenting the messes, lack of space at home, lack of money, and on and on and on. Some wrong ideas only fuelled the discontent; I deserve to be blessed, always happy, overflowing in favour, healthy, wealthy and wise. As a result I often wandered fruitlessly, confused and disenchanted with my 'lot' in life, in fact maybe this was from the devil?! Didn't I need to resist the devil and make this flee from me? I seemed to be in a continual state of resistance yet all along I was opposing the wrong person.
I lived like a victim.
I wasn't educated to realise that God uses the everydayness of life to work His holy character in my heart. God desired to see me flourish, to bear fruit, to be all He had created me to be but I squandered too many opportunities by looking at what I thought was greener grass on the other side. How many of us know, the grass may look greener but it still needs mowing!
I now see that the growing is in the mowing.
I used to think the more I knew about God, gifts, the bible, end times, prophecy, worship etc the more spiritually mature I was, I now know that being spiritual is about maturing in character, love, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. This work of the heart isn't found on a platform under a spotlight, but tucked away in the obscurity of home. As I walk with God each day in the often tedious and tiresome details, choosing to submit to his leading, I become more and more 'spiritual'; this is my life, this is my cup -- these children, this home, this man, this leaky radiator and toilet door which jams, I can embrace these places and choose to make them a fruitful garden. But only if I'll give myself to God's heart work.
"Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and
increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to
His glorious power, for all patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks to
the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins."
The grass of life is growing all around me and I will grow stronger the more I give myself to the character work of cultivating those areas. No more wasted seasons, no more resisting the cup God has brought to help train me. We can certainly wrestle with our cup, Jesus Himself prayed, "If this cup can pass by me", but followed that up right away with, "nevertheless, not My will but yours be done". He strengthens us with his power if we will trust him. I cannot do these things within myself, I am unable to make myself holy or do the right thing. Paul observed a battle going on inside of himself, the will of the spirit versus the power of the flesh, he cried out about his own wretchedness and inability to act according to his desires yet he knew that God and His Spirit could make him able (Rom 7:24-25).
Submitting my will to God's is a choice, and it's hard! Nothing in myself or personality finds this easy, it wouldn't take faith if it was. God's way goes against my very selfish, sinful nature. But if I want to live 'fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God' this is the path I am called to walk.
Where I am tempted to be harsh with cutting words because someone has neglected to put the rubbish out for what seems the millionth time, I remember that 'the law of kindness' shall be on her tongue' (Prov 31:26) and that a 'wise woman builds her home, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands' or words (Prov 14:1 italics mine). When I am tempted to fight back because I'm being wrongfully accused or attacked, I can recall that 'a soft answer turns away wrath' (Prov 15:1) and 'love covers a multitude of sins' (1 Pet 4:8). When I want to fret and worry because work hasn't come in for a couple of months and bills are turning from black to red, I can choose to trust God and take Him at His word which says 'the righteous are never forsaken or begging for bread' (Ps 37:25). When my patience wants to snap because my energy wound son whistles, hums, finger drums, rolly pollies into the lounge, karate jumps off the couch, copies everything I say, repeats daily the stuff explosion in his bedroom....I choose the mature response (most days) and taking a deep breath ask (cry out) for God to help me enjoy his every quirk, 'letting patience have it's full work in me' (Jam 1:4).
We need to be in the habit of consistently tending the garden of our hearts by sowing the words of God deeply, pulling up the weeds of sin, watering ourselves in prayer, mowing down obstacles. It's hard work. It's a daily need. I've decided that while I'm on this earth, married, a mum, have friends, church, neighbours, Learner drivers and bad customer service - I am going to be busy with this call to mature and walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. As I give myself to the work of the Holy Spirit I know the spiritual muscle will grow stronger and stronger with each exertion. Though it will pain me at times as my old ways are broken down they will rebuild stronger and fitter. Accepting we cannot change others or ourselves but that God Himself strengthens us with all might according to His glorious power, it is an act of our will to submit our will to God's but it is His power at work in us which causes us to succeed.
Friends, what areas do you continually find yourself struggling with? What causes you to look away from your own garden wishing you had more of 'this' or a better 'that'? Where today can you finally lay down an attitude or expectation which has been keeping you from fully living and enjoying God's presence in your life?
Let me encourage you that's it's never too late to make a start. It may seem overwhelming because weeds left unchecked run deep and rampant, but they're no match for the power of God to transform it once again.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isa 58:12
What can God help you rebuild and restore today? If you have always longed for a more joyful, peace- filled soul, despite the circumstances, dare to trust the Lord to show you the way towards a fruitful life.