Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hoeing the row

Maybe it's the long stretch of winter that lasts from November to May here in the Maritimes. Or maybe it's just the way my mind works; I don't know. 

I've been thinking about gardening. Don't get me wrong; I don't want to start gardening. I've just been thinking about the process ... working the soil, planting the seeds, watering during dry times, thinning out the plants, and beginning to harvest (which should tell you what kind of gardening I mean - since the only kind that makes any sense to me is planting seeds that will eventually turn into food). 

And then there's my least favorite part - possibly everybody's least favorite part - weeding. 

Weeds happen. They spring up unbidden like some ancient curse (oh wait - they ARE some ancient curse ... I seem to remember that being part of the package in Genesis 3...) And it seems you just get rid of one batch and the next one pops up. It's so discouraging. Yet it's necessary to keep the weeds down because they will choke the plant or the crop, stunt its growth and there will be far less in the harvest.

Some weeds are mistaken for the real thing. I remember a particularly insidious kind when I was growing up - my mother called them "wild beans" - they had leaves like young bean plants and they were the climbing variety so they'd climb up the stalks and choke out the bean plants (and whatever other plants were around). If left long enough, they'd choke out the plant so much that it would shrivel and wither away. 

Photo "Home Gardening" courtesy of
winnond at
The only way to fix it was to hoe the row - take a hoe to the side of the garden row, loosen the dirt around the weed's root - and lift the root out of the ground. Then it could be unwound from the plant. Breaking it off above ground only made it stronger... and the root being gone wasn't enough to stop the choking (since the plant kept growing and would choke itself on the stem of the dead root.) 

I see things like that happening in the church. People start believing things that sound like they should be in the Bible (some folks actually believe that they ARE in the Bible) ... but they're not. In fact, these sayings are part of a doctrine that appeals to the sense that we humans have that we have to have control over our destiny, that we can do something to make God like us better, that what Jesus did on the cross wasn't enough and that we have to add our good deeds to it in order to be accepted by Him. These are things like, "Cleanliness is next to godliness" and "God helps those who help themselves." 

I'm sure that Jesus would have had a couple of things to say about those two sayings. Things like, "You obsess about the exterior! First clean the inside of the cup. Then the outside will automatically be clean." Or, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." 

These beliefs about cleaning up our act and then approaching God, or about God expecting us to do what we can before we ask His help - these are contrary to the scriptures. 

First, we can never clean up our act enough on our own to please Him. And we don't have to (that's His job! He's already done it!) Jesus died for us while we were still His enemies and He takes our "yes" and makes us into completely new creations. 

And second, when we try to do anything in our own strength, we ultimately fall flat on our faces. The lesson I've had to keep learning over and over is that it's better to ask Him first and rely on His strength because if left to my own devices, things will fall apart ... and quickly! 

So I pick up the hoe, I weed out all my efforts to "live the Christian life." And I simply enjoy Him. There's nothing complicated about it. The more I let go of my own efforts and trust what He has already done for me, rest on that finished work, appreciate the grace, the love, the goodness, and the forgiveness that has already been lavished on me, the more full of gratitude and joy I become. The plant will grow - automatically. 

And it will bear fruit. The more gratitude and joy happens in response to what He's already done for me and in me, the more that people around me are going to notice. Most people know when someone is acting. It won't be a set of put-on masks or platitudes. It will be real. It will be vital. It will be something that people can understand. And maybe, just maybe they'll begin to believe that He has done the same for them too. 

No comments:

Post a Comment