From Crying in the Weeds to Planting Seeds

Something evil was lurking in my body yesterday morning… I was unsettled and unhappy, but the reason for such a sour state of being was not apparent. This feeling soon grew to need a reason for it’s existence, so I began to pick a fight with my husband. Having a very bright morning, he was not altogether pleased with my needless anger and frustration, so of course, we had a giant argument….. right before church. How many young couples have been in this exact same situation before?

When we first joined our church, we experienced this kind of spiritual attack every Sunday morning. It seemed as though the Devil was working very hard to make us too ashamed and angry at ourselves and each other to be committed to our place of worship. So, when this came up again, I knew deep down that Satan was trying to prevent something from happening… but I had no idea how hard he would be working to break me that morning…

Upon arriving at church, I sat and sulked in the car, not wanting to see my husband lead worship, then I got fed up with sulking (because let’s face it, sulking is no fun) and so I started praying. It was very hard to hear God. I finally made my way into the church, trying hard to blend in and not be noticed (although, being the only white red-faced girl with a runny nose and teary eyes, this proved difficult).

For the rest of the service, I kept getting hit over and over with reasons to want to run. Far away.

It wasn’t that people were being especially cruel or rude (except for one unfortunate occasion), but it was clear that Satan was working to discourage my efforts in contributing to my church. Being still green to church membership and still coping with the fact that not all Christians in the church are perfect followers of Christ (see my previous blog post), I felt heartbroken at being so discouraged by my own church. Somehow I felt that this wasn’t the way it should be…

I came home sobbing, telling Dennis I never want to go back and that if no one appreciates my work or my creativity, then I’ll just go, or then we’ll just go and start our own church!

I literally would not stop crying.

Dennis was very sweet considering I had been a jerk to him earlier that same morning. He told me that what I was feeling made perfect sense….. But God still has called us to this church….so in other words, cry it out, then buck up and get on with it.

I cried for another hour, then decided to be less pitiful and start making some lunch (by this time it was 3pm and our stomachs were growling rather ferociously).

Over lunch I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in my heart. “I told you to plant that garden for a reason Claire. You blogged about it, but have you gotten your hands dirty in that soil yet?”

“I need to plant some seeds today.” I told Dennis.

“I was just thinking the same thing…” He replied. Although he was speaking a lot less literally than I was.

I went outside and got the pots ready with dirt and took out the weeds around our yard. While I was getting dirty and sweaty, Dennis went to get some beer. I know. Not exactly what you were expecting. But we took the beer over to our neighbors across the street and asked if the kids could come over for Bible Study and dinner later in the evening, then hung out on the porch with them, watching the kids play with the water hose and eat icy pops.

Allyiah, Stewie, JR, and Brianna came over to help me make pizza dough. The whole while I spoke to them about treating one another with respect and how to ask for things politely. (JR and Brianna were not as fond of each other and the kids kept grabbing things around our house and from each others’ pockets). Nevertheless, we mixed the flour and milk and butter together and we rolled out the the dough into little roundish disks and I let the kids splatter tomato sauce over it, throw cheese onto every corner of the pan, and sprinkle seasoning onto the little homemade pizzas. We stuck them into the oven and set the timer, and then met Dennis in the living room for Bible Study.

He had chosen Matthew 13: the parable of the sower. We read together, talked about what the seed represented, and what each part of the ground was. Then we read John 3:16 and talked about Jesus. The kids asked a lot of questions, and after showing them a movie clip of “Godspell”, Dennis asked them if they wanted to pray “the prayer” with him.

Let me start off by saying that I am not an avid evangelist by any means. I myself am a new Christian and so I feel somewhat hypocritical asking someone to start believing and living for someone I took so long to find myself. I also have not been trained in any evangelical methods, and so the prayer called “the prayer” was also fairly new to me.

I watched as these four children sat in my living room repeating after me and my husband. Their eyes were closed, they were really talking to God, perhaps for the first time, and they were speaking words to invite Jesus into their lives.

At first I thought, “Well, they don’t really know what they are saying… these are just words”. But then the power of this prayer began to sink in. These kids were admitting that sin was in their lives, that sin controlled the world they lived in, and especially in Roseland, where they are witnesses to violence, drugs, and sex everyday. They were confessing that they believe in Jesus Christ, that He died for them and that they loved Him. They were even vocalizing a choice to follow God and to live for Christ.

I felt the frustration with my church melt away little by little and I felt a quite voice inside of me say “You have planted the seeds, and their fruit is better than any you could reap from your literal garden outside. But I have called you to be a harvester for these children.”

A week or so ago I wrote about God’s unquestionable assignment to plant a garden. Now, we did go out and plant some seeds after dinner with the kids, but what I think God was really alluding to was planting the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of these young children.

The Gospel of Matthew explains that children are as the Kingdom of Heaven, and that if we as adults, humble ourselves as children, then we will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The more I study Matthew, the more I am convinced that the Kingdom of God is already here; John the Baptist spoke of it’s coming, and Jesus brought it with Him when he gave us the Holy Spirit and taught us how to pray and live. Many are still waiting, and many are not contributing to it, but regardless, it is here and I know that I want to be sold out for it. Like the man who gave up everything to purchase a pearl of great price, I want to leave all to bring the Kingdom to Roseland.

Little children are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. The poor, downtrodden, and weak are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. This Kingdom does not look like any other idea of a kingdom that you could dream of or see in books and movies. This Kingdom is for the least of these. The nothings, the lowlifes, the scum, the dirty, the struggling, the lame, the blind, the sinners desperate for change. Children, wide-eyed, innocent, trusting, and believing, are the perfect candidates for Royal Subjects in God’s Kingdom, and last night, with all six of us praying to Jesus, we brought it a little closer to our part of the city.

Proverbs 22:6 states “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he shall not depart from it”. Even if this world takes over this block, even if Satan tests these children, just as he tested me that same morning, and even if they stray into sin, God promises that they will not depart from it when they are older. I pray that Dennis and I can continue to train up these children with Christ as the center, so that they will become good soil for the Word of God.

I truly am amazed how God turns what Satan meant for evil into His goodness. I don’t think I would be truly as surrendered to Christ last night if I had not been broken down earlier that morning. I know that I can always trust that God will encourage me in the areas I lack stamina; He will provide refreshment in the areas where I am dry and rocky; He will churn and tend to my heart so that it is ripe and ready for harvest, and all will see the Glory of God through the fruit of not our gardens or our grocery baskets, but by the fruit of our lives.

And so, when God says “plant a garden”, perhaps He means literally, but perhaps He is speaking in another parable.

Gasp! The church isn’t perfect?!

But… if the church isn’t perfect, then who is?!

A few weeks ago I found myself at a meeting in the church. Everything was going fine: we were praying, talking, taking prayer requests, offering our personal experiences, and sharing ideas about what the Lord was doing in our lives. All of the sudden something happened. An argument sprung up over how the voting of new officers should be done. Women were yelling, being snippy, acting stubborn, rolling their eyes, accusing one another, and attacking one another. It was out of the blue, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

Now, first let me preface that this church is my first church. I’ve gone to other churches before, yes, but I have never been an active member of the church nor have I been a follower of Christ for more than three years. This has been my only experience of what a church is and what people who belong to Christ do.

With this in mind, imagine my reaction to a mean-spirited argument arising out of a seemingly harmless church meeting. Some (who have perhaps been in the church a little longer) may expect as much, I mean, we are dealing with sinful people here. Some might join in the argument to defend the “Godly” side. Some may simply roll their eyes and begin praying a self-righteous prayer, thanking God that they are not like “those people”. Others may pray an earnest prayer that the Lord would intercede in this disagreement and peace would be restored via Christ’s will alone.

Now, what do you expect my reaction was?

Yep… I started crying. Big fat tears rolled down my face, my cheeks were red, my eyes puffy, my nose running.

Imagine a group of women arguing, then the youngest, whitest, newest member starts balling her eyes out like a little baby. I was extremely embarrassed to say the least. I ran into the bathroom with two other members trailing worriedly behind, the rest left in dismay, no doubt discussing what might have set off the new girl.

Between heaving sobs and behind the bathroom stall door, I explained in rather childish terms, what had made me so upset.

“I just (sob sob sob) don’t understand (snif sniff) why people of God (cry cry cry) are so (sniff sniff) mean to each other (uncontrollable sobbing)!”

Dramatic and laughable (and I do invite you to laugh at me as well!) as it is now, this rather mortifying experience taught me something very valuable. The church is not perfect.

Gasp! It’s not?!

I know. It’s taken me a while to digest as well.

Before this moment, and even a while afterwards, I had been under the impression that other people were either good or they were bad. I found this manifesting in the way I read the Bible as well. Stories like the book of Esther confused me. Is Esther good or is she bad? She presumably sleeps with a man before being married to him and she lies about her heritage until her people are being killed. She doesn’t sound like a super admirable gal, but God does use her to help save His people.

This “imperfection” is is way more than just the book of Esther too. David, after being declared a man after God’s heart, steals another man’s wife, gets her knocked up, then kills her hubby by putting him in the front line of battle. What the heck Dave!? And Solomon, the love child of David and Bathsheba, decided to leave his beautiful wife to go build temples to other gods for his millions of concubines. Even Jesus’ apostles do some pretty stupid petty stuff. So, my question is, how are these people the people of God? Shouldn’t these people be better than that?

My mentality was the same for people in my church. Why are they being so mean? Aren’t they here because of the Lord? If Christ is the leader of their life, why are they speaking to one another so disrespectfully? Shouldn’t these people be better than this?

The answer is yes, they should be better than that, but they aren’t.

And it’s not just them. I also should be better than I am, but I’m not. This answer seems oddly simple: we are, as humans, imperfect. We are not good. We are sinful.

Romans 7:15-20 says it best: I do not understand what I do... For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing...”

Keep in mind, this is Paul, arguably one of the most Christ-like examples in the New Testament besides Christ himself. If even he does not do the good he knows he wants to do, and he is extremely Christ-like, then how can I expect my fellow church members to be perfect at doing good?

This is not to say that we just allow people to do whatever they want, speak harshly, and live sinfully. By no means! But when sin happens, because believe God, it will happen, we need to respond as people who understand that only Christ is perfect. This allows us to be forgiving and merciful to those who disappoint us or leave us in dismay, and it also exalts the name of Jesus, His power, and His utter goodness.

To expect this kind of perfection from anyone else but Jesus takes away from God’s role in our lives, and it also leaves us continuously disheartened and dissatisfied in other people.

As you can see from my tearful reaction not but a few weeks ago, I am still learning this lesson each and everyday, especially since I have now become a member of a church. The Church is beautiful and I love mine, but we must not fool ourselves into thinking a group of sinful people will be perfect and holy simply because they gather in the name of Christ. Guard your hearts, have realistic expectations of people, and understand that Christ is the ONLY one who is good.