Friday, January 25, 2013

Grow Where You Have Been Planted... :)


     True confession... :)
      When I was in my twenties, I joined a Bible study and was assigned to a discussion group.  My discussion leader was a woman about my age and I immediately felt barriers rising up in me as soon as I sat in her group that first night.  Why?
      Because... Nan was everything I wanted to be... and wasn't. She was drop dead beautiful with a sweet voice and personality to match.  She was married and she was expecting her first child.  Me?  I had never even been nominated  for the job of handing out programs at the school pageant  let alone been confused with a potential  beauty pageant contestant.  And while my plan was to get married at the age of 19, it actually didn't happen until I was, um, 32.... So when I went into the Bible class, I was very single and very much aware of it. And as for having children, which I desperately wanted, that wasn't on the cards for me until I married sooo... In my mid twenties I was loving my nieces and nephews but also wondering if I would ever have any babies of my own.

      Then, one night at our first fellowship, I noticed that Nan had on a beautiful necklace with a heart-shaped pendent.  Someone  asked her if her husband had given it to her and she replied that it had actually come from her dad.  Apparently he gave her a gift on every Valentine's day.
     Oh!!!  What I wouldn't have given for a father like that!!!  I would have killed to have had a dad like that!!!
     For me, that was the final straw.
      I went home that night, got into bed with my Bible study materials, bowed my head, and told God that He would have to put me in another discussion group.  I patiently explained to Him that I could not learn from Nan because every time I looked at her, all I could see were the gifts  that I had not been given: great beauty, a husband, children, and most of all, a loving dad.  After I told God what He needed to do for me :), I added this caveat: so please show me how to move to another discussion group without hurting anyone's feelings .. .or change my heart.
     Ha!  Let me tell you, in a benign situation like that - don't even bother with the other stuff - go straight to the "change my heart" deal because that's what He's going to do, trust me on this!
    After I had prayed - rationally and reasonably, I thought -  I opened up my Bible to Genesis and began doing my study.  Soon a cross reference sent me to Ephesians 3:14-21.  I was familiar with that passage and  didn't expect anything new from it.  However, when I got to v. 17, these words seemed to jump off the page towards me:  rooted and grounded in love....
    And then I felt as if God were speaking to my heart and this is what I believed He was saying to me:  Cathie, do you think that just because you can't call Me on the phone or see me write out a check for you - do you think that I am any less of a father to you than Nan's father is to her?
    It was a powerful moment in my life. I immediately got out of bed, fell to my knees, and thanked Him for being my Abba.  Then I started to watch for practical signs of His father love for me -  and they came!  One after the other, they came! And I knew by the time I turned 30 that God is indeed a great Father to the fatherless.  And, as you've probably guessed, God changed my heart so that I came to love Nan deeply and missed her when she was no longer my discussion leader.
    But that was a long time ago so why am I writing about it now?
    Saturday evening, after reading a few chapters in Undaunted by Christine Caine, I was deeply impacted by her account of how God's love sustained her through a major crisis. As soon as the crisis hit, she fell back on Father love and found it more than sufficient.   I wondered:  why don't I live everyday and walk everyday in the assurance of my Father's love?  I had experienced His love.  I had seen evidences of it.  I knew He was real and living and more powerful than I could imagine.  So why were most of my days lived apart from that sense of:   God loves me, God is near me?
     Since I didn't know, I went to the only One who does.   I asked my Heavenly Abba and in answer, He brought to mind that evening over 30 years ago when He so clearly spoke to me from Ephesians 3:17.   In my mind's eye, I could distinctly remember seeing the words, "rooted and grounded in love" and I could also remember thinking something like, "That will be wonderful when it happens!"  As I thought back to this time, I felt that God was saying to me, "Cathie, I wasn't telling you that you would be grounded in My love; I was telling you that you already were rooted in My love."
      I wanted to argue:  How can that be?  I'm still a mess!  I can still fall out of bed and put my sweat shirt on inside out and not notice it until noon when someone points it out to me!  I'm still the one who sticks my foot in my mouth and then literally  cringes later as I think about what I said! I'm the one who fails friends and loses my temper and slinks out of some of my responsibilities (I don't like housework....)  I'm the one who lives in a world of "what ifs" and often is startled like a rabbit at the sight of my own shadow, so to speak.  God! This is me You are talking to!  Remember????

      And then it hit me.  Ephesians 3:17 is using plant terminology. I can't grow much of anything besides Amaryllises and Morning Glories. But I know from watching the Amaryllis plants grow that they can be half dead and then, when they seem beyond all hope, you can re-pot them in better soil, turn a fluorescent light on them 24-7, water them faithfully and many times they will go on to produce beautiful, exotic blooms.  First however, their initial stalks may produce stunted flowers or nothing at all. Then, as the new stalks spring out of the new soil they will produce huge, vibrant flowers.  And then, voila!  Change happens once more - only this time it doesn't look so good!  The beautiful blooms die, a new stalk springs up while the old one is wilting and the process begins again.
     In other words, being rooted and grounded does not mean that the plant looks good all the time or never undergoes change of any sort.  In fact, the plant is constantly changing during its life time.
    When the plant looks great, it's roots are drinking deeply of the potting soil. And then when  the first stalk is starting to look sickly and another is just beginning to show above the dirt, the plant is still drinking deeply from the very same soil.
     And so it is with God's children.  Once we are saved, we are rooted and grounded in His love. It's a fact. It's our foundation for living.  But in the warp and woof of life, sometimes our fruit will look beautiful and sometimes our stalks will be drooping and our flowers will be stunted or non-existent.
      But this is the deal - if the gardener is good at what He does, the soil hasn't changed!
     The last thing that came to me about all this was: sometimes I just don't consciously think about God's love because... I'm uncomfortable with it.  Let me switch from plants to people for a minute and then I'll be done with this  - promise! I'm just wondering, generally speaking, which is better for a child?  To have parents that are belittling, unloving, demanding, and difficult to please?  Or to have parents who are loving, affirming, able to discipline and also able to guide?
    In other words, getting really crazy here and mixing potted plants and unpotted kids in altogether, I'm asking:   which environment provides better soil for a child's heart to grow in?
    I think the answer is obvious.
    So which kind of Father is God?
    I think the answer to that is also obvious.
    So why  do I sometimes  relate to God as if He were belittling, demeaning, and hard to please?
    As if He gives love when I do right and snatches it away when I mess up or do wrong?
    How did I get that idea?
    I mean, isn't the ground where life begins, where it springs from? And doesn't the soil nurture the plant on days when it looks good as well as  on days when it's undergoing necessary changes and maybe looks like a plant reject?
    You can see where I've had things all wrong. For decades, I've thought that God's love is what I earn by the plants I produce. I never fully realized that it's the soil from which my very life, made up of temporary successes and temporary mess-ups, springs from.
     I guess it all comes down to this:  who's your daddy?
     If you have the same one as mine, you are - not will be, but are -  rooted and grounded in His love. And to paraphrase Paul, may your tendrils (and mine!) grow further and further into that foundational love until we know through experience the breadth, length, height, and depth of it.



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