The Battle

6 03 2013

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” – Margaret Thatcher

I have an ongoing battle in my garden. Despite my best efforts, weeds keep popping up amid my carefully cultivated plants. I mulch, water, prune, and nourish my plants. I watch for disease, pull off the dead to help the living thrive, and get my fingers pricked by thorns, but the weeds still come back. I dream of beauty, look in wonder at the way flowers open, petals unfurl, and butterflies carry nectar from stem to stem, but still struggle with stragglers finding their way into my little plot of earth. It requires regular vigilance to keep the weeds from taking over my garden.

Those of you who are more experienced planters than I are probably shaking your heads. Of course. Dealing with weeds is part of the process of growing flowers, fruit, vegetables, and herbs. If you want to enjoy the produce of the ground, you are going to have to pull some weeds.

My soul is a lot like that garden. Weeds keep popping up amidst the beauty that I want to see cultivated in my heart. But here, I am more easily frustrated. Why, when I pull a weed once, does it come back? Why do I have to struggle over and over against the same habits, same temptations, and the same thought patterns? I sometimes feel like a failure when I examine my soul garden and see the weed I pulled last week grow right back.

Margaret Thatcher was right. You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Spiritual growth is a process, a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t become full-blown reflections of Jesus in a day. Habits, tendencies, mindsets, and ways of thinking are not transformed in the blink of an eye. It takes steady surrender, regular repentance, and daily dependence to fight the weeds that seek to take root in the soul.

My Jesus Resolution today is to fight the battle…again. Jesus has already won the victory. I have to learn to live within His triumph. That means focusing on the reason He plants Himself within us. He is growing His own likeness in the soil of our hearts. Weeds will pop up. Dealing with them on a daily basis will keep them from taking over.

The Long Way Around

4 03 2013

Devastated, she could barely speak through the tears. She had prayed hard about the future and was looking forward to getting settled. Now, all of her plans and dreams seemed to fall apart as she looked at the piece of paper. This was the last thing she wanted. The one thing she was unprepared to face.

Doubts floated to the surface. Frustration bubbled up. Her self-confidence took a hit, and she had a hard time seeing how this could be the path that God had planned for her. How could good ever come from the last thing she wanted to do?

We talked and prayed and talked some more. Trusting God comes with a price. We can’t always see what lies ahead. We don’t always know how the road is going to bend. We can always be certain that God is at work for our good and His glory. Sufficient grace is a guarantee we can count on.

Fast forward six months. The voice on the phone was very different this time. “You are not going to believe what happened.” The long way around had suddenly and unexpectedly brought her to exactly where she needed to be. She marveled at timing, fingerprints, and provision. In whispered humility, she admitted if she had marked the path, she would have ended up settling for less than what God had planned for her.

My Jesus Resolution today is to take a deep breath and trust God’s wisdom. God is holding me in His hand. He is doing what is absolutely best for my soul. His boundless love has already paved the way into His arms. The opportunities I have today are designed to shape me into the image of His Son. Sometimes what seems to be the long way around is the best path to deeper trust, fuller surrender, and greater joy.

Before and After

1 03 2013

Grinning has become a round-the-clock happening at our house. My son just can’t stop smiling. A couple of days ago, he sat in the chair and the orthodontist took his braces off. A smooth, straight, bright smile is the result of months and months of wires, chains, and rubber bands.

We have been waiting anxiously for this day. For weeks, my son has been questioning, “How much longer?” Looking in the mirror, he has watched gaps disappear, lines straighten, and everything align. He bugged the doctor for the only news that mattered – the date the braces would come off. Finally, the appointment was made and the celebration planned.

At the end of his favorite orthodontist appointment ever, there was one more piece of work that had to be done. The assistant took out a camera, announcing that she needed to take “after” pictures. Smiling and posing, my son filled the photographs with his new smile.

Braces have helped me see Jesus. My soul starts out crooked, bent, misaligned, and unhealthy. The Spirit works in my life to transform me into something I can never be on my own. Forming Christ in me has required deep surgery, cleaning, pulling, prodding, yanking, investing, and molding. There are “dos” and “don’ts” which help the process move along more smoothly. I get impatient, wanting to rush the process, anxious to see results. Right now, all I can see is the Before picture and the work being done in the mirror. But someday, there will be an After picture that will make it all worthwhile.

My Jesus Resolution today is to smile. God is working on me. He is transforming me day by day, little by little, into the image of Jesus. He treats me with love. He heals me with grace. He gently, persistently, and patiently works in me every day to bring me into closer alignment with Christ. Today when I get anxious or impatient with the process, I am going to smile and remember the After picture that is my goal. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2