Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cleaning Up the Garden

Laura Kovar, a close friend and sister in Christ, recently sent in an article for The Voice. Written from a woman's perspective, she uses gardening imagery to write about the task of discipling other Christians. Hope you enjoy. -SEAN


So, I thought to myself, if my friend Sean Rice can use Marvel Comics to bring out a practical biblical application, I thought I could do likewise with gardening.

The Beginning - Finding Help
I was voluntold a few weeks ago that I was going to undertake a massive gardening project: Granny's Backyard (read with a spooky voice, cause, it's a terrifying sight). Much like with Jesus, we are given tasks that sometimes need to be done, but we often think someone else would do a much better job. Nonetheless, we love Jesus, and want to do right by him, so we don't accept the task begrudgingly, but happily. So it was with Granny's Backyard. The first step was going back there and figuring out what tools were lacking to complete the work - a perfectly Scriptural undertaking. Jesus himself said that if you're going to build a tower, or make war, you better have the right provisions to complete the task (Lk 14:28-35). Unfortunately, there are Christians out there that are more concerned about their image or reputation of helping other, but never invest to the point of it inconveniencing them, where they need to sacrifice something. Once they've gotten recognition for having invested in a brother or sister, they move onto their next project, leaving them at an extremely vulnerable moment. If you read to the end of those verses, Jesus says that unless you forsake everything, you cannot be his disciple; He also says you need salt -- something very important if you want to help brothers and sisters clean up their garden, as it were.

Getting Down and Dirty -- Seeing the Full Picture, From a New Perspective
Although you thought you understood the scope of the problem with your brother or sister, it's only when you're on your hands and knees tearing out the weeds that you realize the magnitude of what you agreed to do.

At first, I was pulling out weeds one at a time, going along gently, and gently folding the weeds and placing them delicately into the plastic bag. After about 30 minutes of this, I looked over, hoping to see my progress, but noticed that nothing much had changed. I was a bit discouraged, but remembered that the end goal will be worth it. So, instead of despairing, I went ballistic. Furiously, I began to grab as many weeds as possibly and just CHUCK them over my shoulder onto the "pavé." When I turned around this time, I was amazed. Instead of seeing all the work that still needed to be done, I could see how much garbage was already taken out. Yup, the "terrasse" was a bloody, weedy mess.

A Lesson About Different Weeds
There are different kinds of weeds. Some of them are just ugly-looking plants. You can tell they are weeds in two ways. (1) You didn't plant them. This could be the equivalent of accepting certain seeming truths (plant look-alikes) without testing them, or because they fit your sin comfort-level-- if I can put it that way. They are however, lies, and need to be removed. (2) They're invading every part of your garden, and when you pull one out by the roots, you notice that the root extends much further than it should. These weeds need to go. From a feminine perspective, they're just visually unappealing. There's nothing to be desired in them. They're not even nice foliage -- they aren't filling in your friend's life/garden in an interesting way; they are there because of laziness. They are easily uprooted.

Some weeds hurt to take out. Jesus put forth a parable in Matthew 13:24-30 about weeds and tares. A man sowed good seed in his garden, but somebody sabotaged it, and weeds were growing in with the good seed. I think here, it's good to realize that not all the weeds in your friend's garden are there by his/her own admission. Sometimes we are sinned against, and until a brother or sister shows us that we're still harboring resentment, we scarcely know it's there. However, these weeds hurt to take out. I know, I have war wounds from this morning. Very delicately, and compassionately, demonstrate that though it hurts, Jesus died to help heal the wounds left by tearing out the weeds.

Finally, there's the subtil choker weed. Ever watched a cartoon where explorers are making their way through a rainforest, and branches seem to be following them, waiting to catch them? Did you know those exist in your garden? Legit! My mom first pointed them out to me when I was probably 5 or 6. They looked beautiful, wrapping themselves around our hedges and fir trees but eventually, those weeds would kill them. Truth dispels lies, but sometimes, you have to scout out the truths that your friend has believed, and take the weeds out from around it that is going to choke it.

Cleaning up - What's In It for You?
We're kind of a selfish race. I'm appealing to our nature by offering you something, is it working? Good. I'm just messing around, but really, I was confronted with this issue last week when a friend told me that she couldn't reach out to a lost cousin because she didn't feel like she knew Scripture well enough. I pondered her angst a while, and then asked her if by helping someone else, was God not also trying to do a good work in her at the same time? I'm drawing a blank on the preacher's name, but in a sermon I'd listened to a while back they said that when God does one thing, he's actually probably doing 300 other things through it.

As I was cleaning under my nails, I noticed all the good dirt that got in there. It reminded me that while we're revisiting the gospel with our friend, we should be gleaning something from it. We should be tuned in to what God wants to show us through this. If we're not attentive, we could miss the lesson Jesus wants to teach us, in the name of being helpful. And who knows, a deeper understanding of that aspect in your life may well be needed in the life of the friend you're trying to aid.

When to Leave the Field - Letting Your Friend Tend to Their Garden
Although the Christian walk is one of communion and fellowship with God and brethren... Each brother and sister needs to make their own efforts to make their calling and election sure (2Peter 1:10), to walk daily with Jesus, denying themselves, picking up their cross to follow him (Mark 8:34-35).

When is it time to leave? I once asked "when will I no longer be a baby Christian" -- the response was "when you can defend yourself." Have you given your friend the tools (ie. a Bible is necessary, but maybe specific ways in which they need to guard against weeds returning, or ways to foresee them (prov. 22:3) and get them out) he or she needs to walk in assurance? It's different for each person, but you can be a great help if you're doused in humility and prayer. It's not about you, but about Jesus and his redemptive work in your brother or sister's life.

And when all is said and done, rejoice in the beautiful garden with a tall glass of cold lemonade. Amen?


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