Friday, May 16, 2014

On Learning The Three-Hundred [& His Glory in the Garden]

Ya'll, gardening is a dangerous endeavor.

As if the tilling of the soil and the arrangement of the plants and the actual back-breaking work of planting the darn thing, with multiple trips to Walmart covered in who knows what to get yet another bag of potting soil--as if all of that isn't enough, every hour I spend out there leads to some sort of spiritual revelation or conviction.

But let's be real, mostly the latter. And it's painnnnnfulll. 

Even more so then my fingers after spending every Saturday crouched over yanking on those pesky little weeds that seem to reproduce right under my eyes. That sea of green.

From my understanding, you have to uproot the weed completely to prevent it from coming back. And when we're talking thousands of weeds in such a wide space--well that just seems not possible. So I more often find myself swiping off the green shoots poking up that drive my eyes mad. For hours, I clear them out until theres a wide circle around each plant that boasts only brown soil and is fully purged of those life-sucking blades of green. Wow, that looks so much better. I think to myself. I can breathe a sigh of relief.

Until next week.

That's the problem with us though--we're looking at the surface and our sweet Savior is looking underground, at our hearts. Our solutions yield instant gratification and so often God's way requires (at times even painful) patience and trust.

If I cut into that soil and looked below the surface, I would surely find an entangling of roots. Deep, deep weeds rooting themselves into my plants. I would see the way they suck life right out of my slow-growing tomatoes. Like thieves in the night. The way the nutrient, moist and sun-filled patch feeds them to live. And I would see the consequences of avoiding the deeper issue---those pesky roots of the weeds.

So what if we cut into the depths of my heart and gazed beneath the surface? I guarantee there would be a thick entangling of life-sucking sin rooted down in there. And when I chose to feed it, it grows. When I feast on the truth I know and soak in His grace the spirit living in me gains weight while the roots of sin shrivel. It's really as simple as that.

But it can certainly be hard work. Christ makes us new of course, and yet allows us to remain sojourners on this earth and the wait can seem much like a war at times, a war waging beneath the surface of our hearts.

It's like when Paul talks about wanting to do the one thing he knows he doesn't want to do but he still wants to. Even typing that makes no sense, and yet--welcome to the battle!

I've been rooted in Gideon's story these past few weeks. Today I'm at the point in the story where God tells Gideon to send home any of his soldiers who are "afraid and trembling" so as not to cause the rest enslavement to such fear. Much to Gideon's surprise, 22,000 of his soldiers heard that and just peaced out. Surely he decided in that moment his battle had just been lost, before it had even begun.

I might look at my thousands of weeds against ONE messy me:  hopeless victory. 

Unhindered fear would have become a more powerful weapon against Israel than the thousands of swords pointed in their direction. Look at how God is seeing things here--removing Gideon's eyes from the shoots sticking out in front of him (his large, enemy army) to see the even greater destruction that can come from the hearts of those standing right beside him.

It gets even better, of course. As if loosing all those men wasn't enough, He then tells him to separate certain men from his army based on how he observes them drinking water out of the stream. I can only imagine Gideon in this moment--God, are you joking me?!

This leaves Gideon with three-hunderd men. After starting off the day with 32,000 Gideon probably felt pretty alone and defeated.

But God knew better then Gideon, and He knows better then we do too. Even I would have told Gideon to go get some more men. But God is STILL looking at the heart over the circumstances. He knew Gideon's strength came from men that were not distracted by their flesh. Even if that was outwardly expressed in how they drank their water. These three-hundred knew they needed to drink, but not at the expense of their alertness and readiness for war.

Our thirst needs to be quenched--and it always is--but at what expense?

This past year I have seen my army of 32,000 fading away too. It has been a long, exhausting, and lonely season of roots being yanked hard. Uncertainty of the future, sin creeping back up, deep roots exposed, and a whole lot of waiting to see the victory.

But just as Gideon will eventually see the grace of God in removing the distracted soldiers that his army might bring more victory for the sake of God's glory, so also have I witnessed His spirit gaining strength inside of me, triumphing over the grave. 

Whether in an army or a garden or our hearts, the removal of the wayward roots is painful and scary. It can make us to feel isolated and confused about the future and even the very nature of our Father. You may not be particularly pleased with the three-hundred you've been left with. For a long season, I wasn't either.

But His power is perfected in our weakness. Only so we can boast all the more gladly of our inabilities.

I'm learning that the three-hundred is our secret-weapon. It's a battleground to show God's strength and glory. It's not the 32,000 we thought we needed, but its the three-hundred that God will use to bring the victory into our lives and the glory that is His alone. 

It's His love that surpasses the depths of the deepest, thickest root of sin which pierces it at its core. It's the same love that took away over 30,000 men from Gideon's army. And it's with that very same love that He desires the depths of our hearts--through all of which come the victory and His glory. 

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