On somewhat of a whim, we decided to pull up our front lawn [composed mainly of: creeping vines, crabgrass, and dandelions] this weekend and replace it with new sod. We were weary of fighting a loosing battle with weeds and thought a fresh start would be best. So, we bought the sod, [to be delivered later today], tore up the existing “grass” and began prepping the ground for the new. Sadly, we discovered that originally our soil had been poorly prepped, if at all. A mere two inches down, the roots stopped; because the ground had not been prepared, not loosened, not even broken. It looked like the crews had come along and slappdc down the rolls of sod on top of whatever was already there. We found more discarded construction material than not, and little [if any] soil enhancers. Needless to say, we finally understood why our yard has been such an uphill battle these past few years. Our grass was only two inches deep, and everything that lay under those two inches, or that could penetrate that depth, was taking over.
After digging and hauling and raking the results of shoddy lawn prep, this Sunday I heard a teaching about 2-inch deep spirituality [I love how God uses visual metaphors with me]. Our teacher was trekking through chapter seven of Ecclesiastes and noted that oftentimes we are the fools who prefer the vanity of laughter, which is like the crackling of thorns in the fire, to a wise man’s rebuke [vs. 5-6]. He noted that we would rather pretend that we’re okay, that we’re not going through struggles, than be vulnerable and admit it. Or to even ask for help. This teacher noted that we, as a Church [big C], don our plastic smiles and “everything’s-peachy-keen” attitudes when around others and try to hide what’s really going on behind closed doors, in our own hearts. Because it’s the outward appearance that we’re striving for, not genuine transformation.
When we allow ourselves to be these plastic people, our relationships and spirituality become much like my lawn. At first blush it’s green [we even had people driving by pull over to ask why we were tearing it out]; and our lives, at least to those on the outside, are nice and tidy. But little by little, the creeping vines and dandelions and crab grasses start popping up. Christ warned us of this, of the state of our hearts, when he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit,sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." [Mark 7:20-2].
Initially, there were only a few weeds, and we were able to control them by pulling them out; much like the darkness in our lives, we treat the external symptoms by trying harder at being good enough, at not letting the ugly parts of ourselves show through. Then there were more, so we resorted to specific chemicals [retreats] and fertilizers [Bible studies] to feed the grass that was left. It is like still striving under our own power, not really letting anyone in to see the problem underneath, just treating the symptoms. But in the end, there were too many weeds, their roots were deeper, and they simply overwhelmed the tenuous hold the fescue had on that plot of land. And if we, as followers, continue in this course our spirituality, our relationships, even our testimonies will mirror my lawn: choked by weeds, slowly dying, hopeless.
But if we give up our plastic selves, turn these masks over to God, we will be a new creation in Him. He will till the ground, so our roots may deepen. He will remove what defiles us, if we let Him. He will change us, and transform those with whom we share this remarkable journey.
The Psalmist marks just this [Psalm 119:25-3]:
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! WhenI told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I willmeditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
We cling to that which is useless, our strivings and appearances. It is dust. The only lasting and meaningful life is found rooted deeply and daily in the word of God. We have to tell our Father the truth, not merely platitudes of praise, regarding the state of our hearts. If we hurt, we need to tell him. If we’re mad, we need to tell Him. If we’re struggling, if we’re trapped in sin, if we’re so lost we no longer know the way out ~ we have to tell Him! He will answer us. He will teach us, strengthen us, change us! If we ask Him, He will help us abandon our plastic selves. He will reinforce our faithfulness with His own. He will not shame us, but use our stories to free others and increase His glory! He will enlarge our hearts to be more like His.
We will be what draws others to the Savior’s arms; a lush, and green pasture that invites the lost, the broken, and the weary to lie down and find rest, find peace ~ in Him!