How To Save A Life

I had to re-pot a plant for my mom today. It was very root-bound, producing far more plant than the poor pot could handle. I ended up with two plants, instead of one. It made me think of people, and how often we over-cram our lives full of things that are inherently good and beneficial but end up stifling our growth. How much plant can one pot hold? It can hold a lot, actually, but it shouldn’t, because it’s not good for the plant. How many commitments can one life hold? I certainly know from experience that a life can hold quite a few commitments — but I also know how destructive it can be when there’s too much going on. Too many people, too many hobbies, too many obligations, too many distractions. Too many roots, not enough soil. Something is going to die. What’s dying in your life because you have too much going on? Are there things you can delegate to a new pot?

While I was sifting the dirt for roots and laying aside the ones that could be re-planted, my four-year-old daughter took note of what I was doing. She was horrified. “Mommy! Why are you ruining Gramma’s plant??” I couldn’t help but smile. It really did look like I was ruining Gramma’s plant. How often has it looked like God is ruining my life? But is that in keeping with what I know His character to be? If my daughter had taken the time to reason it out, even at age four, she probably could have figured out that it was out of character for me to ruin something that belonged to someone else. In reality, I was doing the exact opposite; I was bringing freedom to the healthy parts of the plant and sifting the dead parts out. Sometimes it feels like God is ruining my life when really, He’s just freeing me up. Taking out the dead stuff and leaving the healthy stuff behind to grow and spread out a little bit. Fresh air, spacious soil. It’s a painful process but a soul feels so much better — freer — when it’s over.

I was tempted to rush, because I wanted to see the finished product. Not surprisingly, I often try to rush God, too. “Let’s go! I want to be finished already! Process is boring, hard, tedious, painful, TOO LONG.” I’m thankful that God isn’t manipulated by my foolish desires and fleshly impatience. He takes exactly the amount of time that’s needed to properly sift, patiently dig, productively plant.

When I was done, I had a good-sized pile of dirt, roots, and broken stems. My original plan was to put all of it in the trash. But the process of sifting had revealed that there were a lot of root systems still capable of producing sprouts. I couldn’t bear to throw them in the garbage, but there was no room in the pots. So I went outside and found a nice patch of grass out of the way of mowing paths and spread it all out, hopeful that it would sprout in warmer weather. It reminds me of something my aunt told me once, during a particularly rough time in my life: “God wastes nothing.” Not the extra soil, not the myriad roots, not the broken stems. He uses all of it somewhere, often out of my sight and unbeknownst to me, always to His glory and for our good.

Today, I discovered another way that I take after my Father — I like to garden! He’s profoundly better at it, but that’s a good thing. It provides just the motivation that this stubborn and rebellious child needs to ask God to kneel in the dirt with her. Of course He’s delighted to, on one condition — do I trust Him enough to do what He says, even if it doesn’t make sense? Today…I do.

And so the digging begins.

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How Christianity Is Like A Dog Show

Picture this: You have a dog. Your friend also has a dog. And lately, whenever your friend comes around, she goes on and on about these dog shows that she puts her dog in all the time. “You need to exercise your dog more,” she tells you, somewhat condescendingly. “There is no way your dog would ever qualify past the first round! You need to feed your dog healthier food and brush his coat every once in a while — it looks terrible! And no dog is going to get an award in a dog show with a bark like that! You should train it to be quiet on your command.”

How likely are you to put your dog in the dog show with “encouragement” like that, hm?

But let’s say you’re walking your dog in the park one day and a total stranger comes up to you. “Wow,” they say. “That’s a really nice dog you have there! He’s peppy, friendly, and his coat is so soft! Have you ever thought about putting him in a dog show??”

“HA!” you bark, sounding a lot like your dog, much to your embarrassment. “I’ve heard about those dog shows! There is no way I’m putting my dog in one of those. Too many rules. And the people I’ve met who do those shows are snawww-BEE. I am not interested in dog shows, thankyouverymuch.”

The total stranger gives a little laugh. “I know just what you’re talking about,” they say with surprising humility. “I’ve met some of those same people. They like to tell everybody why their dog is the best dog and how they’re doing it right. But honestly, the dog show really isn’t about rules. Obviously there ARE rules, because how else would you know what to do in order to win trophies and ribbons? But the rules are only for the people who want to be in the dog show. The dog show itself is actually a lot of fun! You get to bond with other people who love their dog and there’s parties after every show that everyone can come to. Plus, there’s honorable mentions; even if you don’t meet every single requirement, you’re bound to get SOMEthing!”

“Hmmm,” you say slowly. “That actually doesn’t sound like a bad time….” And it doesn’t, does it? Interestingly enough, both people are talking about the same dog show. But only one person has an accurate grasp of what it’s about.

Christianity is the same way. I’m learning a LOT from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley and something I just learned yesterday is that God’s rules are for God’s people. So there’s no point going around trying to get people to stop sinning if they want nothing to do with God in the first place. And when Jesus told us to go make disciples, that didn’t mean, “Go tell all the homosexuals that they’re burning in hell for being gay.” What it actually meant was, “Tell people about Me. See if they want a relationship with Me. Tell them that I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE. Tell them that I’ve come to give them new life and to give it to them ABUNDANTLY. Tell them I love them and that I died for them specifically so I could spend eternity with them. And if they tell you they want a relationship with Me, baptize them the way I was baptized and then teach them the things I taught you.” THAT’s what it means to go make disciples.

Being friends with Jesus isn’t about “the rules”. The rules aren’t even really RULES, so much as they’re a PLAN. Specifically, it’s His plan — how He intended things to be when He created the world and how He intended life to be lived. When we follow His plan, we get unbelievable joy out of life. Just ask anyone who genuinely loves Jesus! (I say ‘genuinely’ because, even in today’s day and age, there are a lot of Pharisees walking around.)

The rules are actually good news. The bad news is that sin is very real; it literally enslaves everyone and we still have to battle it even after becoming friends with Jesus. The good news is that the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead is given FREELY to us so we can fight sin and conquer it!!! It gives us the ability to resist that one temptation that we just can’t seem to say no to! And I’ve been friends with Jesus for a while now — I can tell you it works. I can also tell you it’s HARD sometimes. But it’s JOYFUL and it’s TANGIBLE and it’s wonderful.

If someone doesn’t want to be friends with Jesus, I’m not gonna try to teach them what He’s taught me. His teachings are for the people who want to follow Him, who want to love Him back. And He invites everyone to love Him back.

If you’re friends with Jesus, make sure you’re telling people about JESUS. Because until someone has access to His power through a friendship with Him, there’s no point telling them about the rules. His power is the only thing that enables us to follow His teachings in the first place, and we don’t HAVE that power until we have a relationship with Him. You don’t need to get cleaned up before you take a bath, so why do so many people think they have to be following God’s rules perfectly before they ask Jesus to save them from sin? And especially CHRISTIAN people! Why are we walking around trying to clean people up before we introduce them to the bath??

Jesus loves us just the way we are. But He loves us too much to leave us feeling empty and miserable and dissatisfied with this fallen world. So He came to give us life. Do you want it?