Today I stepped outside for a moment and walked to one of my favorite places, my garden. I peaked in. A casual observer may have missed it, but I sowed these seeds so I saw them.
Sprouts. Just a couple, one just barely peaking out of the earth. My heart leapt. They sprouted. The still, small Voice whispered, “I get just as excited about the smallest sprout in your heart, too.” He’s a Gardener, so He understands.
Isn’t that wonderful? So many of us have the wrong impression of God. I really used to feel like God was always disappointed in me, no matter what I did. I was really seeking God, trying to be a good Christian, and do all the right things. I really loved God, but honestly how close are you going to feel to someone who you think is always disappointed in you, someone who always sets the bar just a tad higher any time you get close to accomplishing the goal? It’s not a recipe for joy. I was focused on me and on missing the mark, because I had a law-keeping, task-master god.
Then I realized that there was no bar That’s why Jesus came and died for us. Sin by definition is missing the mark. When the Bible says law of the Spirit set us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), it means Jesus set us free from missing the mark. That law doesn’t apply to us. Our new laws are the law of Love and the Spirit. I threw away the measuring stick. (Honestly, I had to do that over and over again. Sometimes I still need to.) I’m learning that life comes when all our focus is on abiding in Love and walking in the Spirit.
So we have a Happy Gardening God, which is a really delightful way to live. He pulls weeds here, prunes there, but mostly He just smiles to see every seed that sprouts in our lives.
Every bud that forms,
Every fruit that ripens.
My husband and I have a rhythm that ends the day in the garden together, if we can. We comment to each other on things that would seem boring and trivial to others, “The apples are bigger tonight.” “Do you think we should pick the squash or give it another day?” “Look, they sprouted!” Others wouldn’t notice the growth, or even the problems until much later than we do. Why? Because we’re invested. We love our garden and have invested time, sweat and work into it’s prosperity. You bet we want a harvest! Yes, it makes us feel like a kid eating candy when we bite into that first tomato of the season! How much more has God invested? He laid down His life for us, and He rejoices every moment we turn to Him with a sincere heart. He welcomes the prodigal home who still smells like un-kosher pigs. He does a happy dance every time we turn to Him.
He’ll take the smallest things and turn it into something more, too. For instance, hunger, not homesickness brought the prodigal home, right? “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:17-20 NASB)
The prodigal son doesn’t seem particularly focused on re-establishing relationship with the Father. He just realized that he would be better off at home. Simple pragmatism. But God doesn’t wait until the son has his repentance perfected. He runs to his son. He had watched for ages for the slightest glimpse of a change, and when He finally saw it He celebrated with abandon.
Recently in conversations, I noticed a similar theme. A spouse leaves, and the one left behind starts going to church. Mostly it started because he knew that only God could fix his marriage, fix him. Still, somehow in that small turning, a seed was sown, and it sprouted. A lot of watering from the Father and surrendering to Him has happened over time. Now the person who was just trying to fix a marriage is surrendered to a much better Lover who will never leave. Somehow, that person is going to be okay whether the marriage is restored or not. (Of course, we pray for redemption on every front). Another person I’m thinking about decided not to move in with the person that they loved. He wanted to, but it would have broken his parent’s hearts, so he just couldn’t. God took that one seed of honoring his parents, and something grew. First it looked like loneliness, but then he started reading the Bible, eventually he gave his whole life to Jesus. Now he’s a completely different person, transformed by the love of God. Many times we miss the sprouts. We wait for the fruit, but Our Happy Gardening God, He saw that first sliver of green pushing up against the dirt, and He leapt, laughed and cried happy tears, because He sowed the seed and He knows the harvest that is coming.
So, if you don’t know how to live the Christian life, join the crowd. Just say yes to Jesus. Then, say yes again. Keep saying yes to Him. Before you know it, you’ll have the most beautiful, abundant Life inside. You’ll wonder why you ever thought anything or anyone else would satisfy. How do I know? He’s a good Gardener.