Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Alrighty, I’ve been studying the book of Hebrews this past year, and the Holy Spirit has been showing me how often I am fighting against Him to harden my heart. It’s resulted in a lot of trying to figure things out on my own, white knuckling my control, realization, repentance, and tears. So for today in this very first official episode of Secret Gardening with Sarah, I’m thinking about amendments. Have you heard of soil amendments? Well, to have the right soil, often, gardeners have to amend the soil with nutrients (lime, nitrogen, organic matter like compost are some examples) to have a prolific outcome for the plant. I love that word, prolific! (Producing much fruit, foliage, offspring or plentiful). I first heard it last year when my friend Jesse showed us his farm, specifying prolific plants. I was hooked. I so hope to be prolific with my life. And truly, I try to amend myself all the time, but it’s wrong thinking that gets me there. A thinking that comes from a bad understanding of the Gospel. I heard someone say last week, “God is not going to say well done, good and successful servant.. He says faithful servant.” When I think I have to do something to earn God’s grace, I am not experiencing life as gift. And that can happen far too often. Surprise! I’m a sinner. When I was in middle school, a group of kids called me Saint Sarah. I felt an all too familiar mixture of shame and pride over these words. Our thinking of that word came from a bad understanding too. What I now know is that I am a saint, a sinner saved by grace, only by the blood of Jesus. He is my friend, my help, my savior. He is always with me. Do you know Him? If so, I’m eternally glad. If not, I’m so glad you are here. I really hope you let me introduce Him to you through my stories. Any goodness you see in me is one hundred percent from Him. It is gift. He gives the very best gifts. In the past, I let myself take some credit for my goodness. I was full of pride. And others put me on a pedestal. I let them. Have you ever been put on a pedestal? It feels good until you come crushing down to the ground where you belong. Well, I definitely know that my right place is grounded, magnifying Jesus, and not myself. I still need to be refined and humbled and disciplined to not be tempted to think I have anything to do with my goodness. I need to be on the ground so Jesus can amend me to be prolific.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is...Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”
So what Lewis is saying is that God knows how hard temptation can be. The person who holds out longest knows the suffering the most. And so, he is fully in tune with reality.
They say “Reality” is our friend. I’ve had several well-meaning people tell me to face reality. Well, I’m here to say, Jesus is the only reality with a face that is my friend.
Last week, I found myself hearing the word “hate” come out of my mouth several times. One of those times I was talking about mornings. I felt the familiar nudge of the Holy Spirit later that evening. He was convicting me of something, but I was too tired to think about it. I wanted to brush it off, and so I made myself some food and drink and ate. An hour or so later, I felt the nudge again. I turned on the newest movie on Netflix that promised me true love. Ha! I laughed through the un-reality of the movie. I won’t name it, but let’s just say high school is nothing like that depiction. Boys don’t act like grown men with emotional intelligence, as much as I wish they would. Girls don’t have that great of hair, makeup, or clothes every day in high school. And love doesn’t look anything like what the movie promises. Now, I did enjoy it, knowing all too well, it was not reality. Well, at the end of that movie, sitting by the warm fire with my sweet dog at my feet, I felt it once again. I sigh. I sigh at the presence of the Living God. He is so patient with me.
You want to know the reality of the situation? I was running away from pain. I did not want to face my emotional pain. I did not want to believe the truth in that moment. I wanted to numb myself. I wanted to figure it out on my own. I wanted to manage my own conscience. And then I remembered some words from our Hebrews study the night before—about the illustration of the temple fulfilled in Christ. “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God...” Hebrews 9:13-14. Now if all that blood stuff freaks you out, I get it. Let’s just say, God had a plan to show us how we cannot save ourselves and to show us just how loved we are.
So, finally, I let the tears flow and instead of relying on my own management of my conscience, I asked him to help me. I called out to him. I asked for help. I don’t know what all the answers will be, but several days later it came in the form of a morning song.
You see, I do not like mornings. Most mornings I wake up dreading facing the day. I like my bed. I like afternoons and evenings when I finally feel energized and hopeful. I failed to see the morning as a gift. Another day to remember and celebrate life as gift. And God did not want me to miss it. He does not want me to be overflowing with hate for the morning. Now, if God is the God of loving enemies, surely I can love the morning. Surely I can choose to love the morning. Surely I can dig into the pain of the morning and find the joy on the other side?
And some mornings will be hard. I will want to give up. He won’t let me. Other mornings, I will wake up singing something like this particular morning...
“In the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus, ...”
And that brings us to the portion of the podcast called, after my late grandmother’s most used and beloved phrase, “I do declare”
I do declare these words to you from the book of , Galatians 6:9
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
A prayer for us today:
The Gift of Gifts
from the collection of puritan prayers and devotions called The Valley of Vision
O Source of All Good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts, thine own dear Son, begotten, not created, my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute, his self-emptying incomprehensible, his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders: he came below to raise me above, was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love; when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to himself.
Herein is power; when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom; when I was undone, with no will to return to him, and no intellect to devise recovery, he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost, as man to die my death, to shed satisfying blood on my behalf, to work out a perfect righteousness for me. O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind; let me hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believing, rejoice, praise, adore, my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose, my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father; place me with ox, ass, camel, goat, to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face, and in him account myself delivered from sin; let me with Simeon clasp the new born child to my heart, embrace him with undying faith, exulting that he is mine and I am his. In him thou hast given me so much that HEAVEN can give NO MORE.