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.

In the Garden.

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God blessed them, and God said to them… “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it… Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper as his partner”…  The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh or my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.

                                                                                                      –Excerpts from Genesis

Dennis and I have planted a garden outside of our home. It seems rather providential timing that we also began to read Genesis together in this new, fresh time of our lives. Genesis is the beginning story, where everything is set up and created. The creation story, as it were. I am finding simple lessons here as well as discovering the same old truths we all knew in our brains since sunday school, but knowing and hearing them be spoken in God’s own words which are written on our hearts is an entirely new experience. Perhaps I’m just feeling new about everything, but like our garden outside, I am very aware of the growth required in this transition period of time in my life. And it’s a wonderful reminder of where that strength and ability to stretch comes from, as we water seeds and read about the first humans before us.

First of all, I just want to point out that Adam and Eve were commanded by God to be Vegetarians in the Garden of Eden. (Shameless plug for veggie-eaters like myself and promoting such eating habits :-)They ate the plants of the ground and the fruit from (most of) the trees. Later God does allow people to eat animals, but it happens outside of the perfect world of the Garden when almost everything is peaceful and perfect.

However… there is that snake. God is all-powerful; nothing happens outside of his power and will, and yet he allows the snake to exist in Eden, the snake who tempts the woman and man into the first sin of the world. How and why could he allow this. It is this fact that makes me wonder if The Fall was necessary. If we were truly meant to leave Eden, and leave the perfect life of the Garden.

Perhaps our fall was tragic, but God meant it to be so, just the way he meant his Son’s death to be painful and tragic as well. In this case, Adam and Eve graduated from the Garden and into the rest of the world. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another thing I noticed: God puts man in the Garden to till it and keep it; he gives us work. Here and not God also gives us work. We are all meant for what God has in mind, but many make the mistake that it is one thing. I know that God called me to be an actor when I was 16 years old, and the I know he called me to drop it entirely in order to teach when I was 21. Now, who knows? God may call me to become a crossfit trainer or a mural painter. His calling changes, and we never know what we are made to do until we begin to do it, by the work of God’s hands.

In Eden, work was enjoyable. Man and Woman had dominion over all creation and were required to take care of it and keep it. This was work. After The Fall, work became less fun and enjoyable and rewarding, which leads us to now. Now, all anyone does is work, and it’s not always enjoyable. God doesn’t call us to live in perfect peace anymore. Just look at Jesus’ life. Jesus was completely perfect, and yet, people hated him and killed him. We are called to die in such a way as well. To die to ourselves.

Another thing I have noticed. Woman was created from Man. Woman was designed from the beginning to be the Man’s helper. Now, this may sound demeaning of women in some ways, to say that a woman is only meant to help a man. But help is a huge thing. The bible talks about help in a lot of different ways, but mainly in regards to God being a helper, the Holy Spirit being a helper, and as the Woman being a helper. Yet, the way I see it, if God is a helper and the Holy Spirit is a helper, then it must be a pretty big deal to be a helper to men. And men need help. That is why a husband clings to his wife when he leaves his mother and father. He needs her, in a similar way he needs God. God designed it to be this way and so it is very good.

During our first year of marriage, I have slowly become aware of the innate differences between men and women; how they think, act, organize, process, fell, and express ideas or emotions. I have also seen how this directly connects to The Fall.

To the women he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of the ground you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man is meant to lead, but women always resist the vitally important roles as helpers and try to take control by manipulating just the way Eve did when she gave the fruit to her husband. Men are meant to lead, but they often shy away from this responsibility the way Adam did when he went along with his wife’s sin. We are cursed with these same tendencies today. Women often want to feel powerful and in control, and often this leads them to sin. Men often want to be irresponsible and childish and this often leads them to sin. We are living today with the same tendencies as the very first humans had, and it was their punishment that now we face. Women will desire after her husband, and also after his role. Women are often needy in this way and appear to be clingy and emotional beings because of this. Men are called for more work, in which they sweat and are not rewarded highly for their pain and toil.

How incredible to see where it all began. To see not only my likeness to Eve, but also to God. In Genesis, God shows all sides of himself. The vengeful wrath of God as well as the merciful, regretting, and covenant-building God. He has both qualities of man and women in him, which is why, I find, that Marriage is so beautiful.

The two shall become one flesh. Marriage is meant to be holy, I am finding. It was designed to make us more like God and encompass all of his beautiful perfect qualities, both masculine and feminine. The bible said that we were created in God’s image, both male and female, and so God (even though we call him a “He”), is also feminine in who He is. The only thing that got in the way of Adam and Eve being the perfect humans was sin, and this is true today. Sin is the only thing that drives two people away from one another. Sin is the separator.

…..

I have been deeply convicted as of late. I have not been guarding my thoughts, and so my words have become poison rather than words that encourage or build up. I noticed it when I began writing letters to my students. The Holy Spirit was working as my incredible partner to help me see each of my students in the best way possible– the way God sees them and loves them dearly. This practice was incredible. I felt like a gardener, watering each child’s heart and confidence and mind. Where even the driest, hardest, and mealiest soil laid, I could grow a plant to bear beautiful fruit, so long as I looked at each of them through the lens of Christ. Christ died for people who hated him, but he did it because he loved them dearly. Although I was not dying for my students, I know that some of them weren’t exactly fond of me, nor had they been nice, polite, or even civil to me. It would be so easy to lash out at them or even ignore them, but God gave me the patience and positivity I needed to write them words of encouragement and love.

I realized yesterday that I need to apply this same practice to my marriage and friendships. Relationships need caring and love. They need to be fed and watered and cared for just like plants in a garden do. God called us to do it with plants and animals so long ago and now he calls us to do it with our partnerships, friendships, marriages, children, families, and any relationships at all. Nine months ago I made a vow to my very best friend to see all his failings as examples of God’s incredible grace, to love him actively as I actively peruse Christ, and to strive to see him in the way God sees him, as a beautiful image of his Son. Nine months later, I have fallen so many times, in the same way Eve and Adam fell so long ago.

But I have newly inspired hope.

I know God has moved people tremendously through my hands already. Not by my own doing, but by his. I know that he can continue to do so in each relationship I have here on this Earth. In doing so, He is tending to his own Garden and making it grow in his Son and in his Truth.

I am so blessed to be a gardener on this side and anticipate when I can also do even more rewarding work in heaven.

I am:

newly inspired and driven towards God and his garden.

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