Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Want That

When you’re young, the world is at your feet.  And there is enthusiasm for every possibility, every challenge that life can suggest.  And so it was with me when I was twenty six years old.

I was only recently converted to Christ; and life had become so much different.  There was this new awareness of God’s presence.  And, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I was reexamining everything:  my values, my habits, my speech, etc.  And, in the process of all of that, I also decided to try my hand at gardening.

So, in mid- February of my twenty sixth year, the decision was made.  I would put a vegetable garden up on the low hill behind my house.  Never mind that I had no real equipment or know how.  I had enthusiasm – and a shovel.  It seemed like enough to me.  Why do young people always over play their hand?

At any rate, I set out.  I began to turn over the ground with my shovel.  I originally envisioned about a 50’ x 50’ plot that would be grass free, and have perfectly straight rows of beautiful, growing, green things that I would eventually harvest. 

I had my plot ready for planting by early march – or so I thought.  After turning the sod over, I had carefully removed all of the field grasses, with their roots from the plot.  Oh, and by the way, the shovel and I had a conference about midway through the plot preparation process; and we decide to slightly reduce the size of the plot by about 50%.  I was all for sticking to the original plan, but the shovel insisted.  So, I acquiesced. 

Anyway, by early March everything was ready.  But then, I looked again.  And, I saw several blades of bright green grass sticking up here and there in my manicured garden plot.  So, I pulled them out.  And the next afternoon there were twice as many.  So, I pulled them out.   And the next afternoon, twice as many more, so I desperately pulled them out.

Now, I am both frustrated and worried.  So, I consult my resident expert on gardening – my granddad.  He informs me that I have “nut grass,” dread scourge of every good gardener.  He further informed me that nut grass is named for the small, well, nuts that grow underground and provide it with its Superman like vitality. 

He also informed me that I had two options.  One, I could build a chicken pen on top of the garden plot.  The idea being that within a year or two the chickens would scratch up and eat all of the nuts.  Thus the grass would eventually die out – eventually.  Or two, I could enlist the help of my trusty shovel – again – and turn over the entire garden spot – again; the intent being, this time, to remove all of the little nuts. 

Hummm, what to do?  You guessed it.  There was no way the enthusiasm of youth is going to stand by and wait for two years for a bunch of aimless chickens to solve the problem.  So, hello Mr. Shovel.  Yep, we went at it all over again. 

About midway through this nut grass ordeal, my wife took pity on me, and began to help.  So, for several afternoons and a couple of Saturdays, we invested ourselves in nut grass removal.  By the time it was all over, the nut grass was gone, and, pretty much, so were we.  Our backs hurt.  Our hands were blistered and shore.  And our enthusiasm went on a water break, and never came back. 

But, did I mention – the nut grass was gone.  Several days went by, and no little green shoots.  We had, indeed, won the nut grass war.  There was celebrating in the land.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, our old friend, Enthusiasm, come back from his water break, ready to plant a garden. 

After another few days, all of the little seeds had been planted with care.  All that remained was the waiting, and the waiting, and the waiting some more.  Gardening is really hard on young nerves.

But eventually, as the weather warmed a bit, the small green sprouts began to poke their heads up.  And there was more celebrating throughout the land.

Then the daily cultivation began.  There was the gentle hoeing and checking and transplanting and thinning.  There was the doting on this plant and that.  And there was more waiting and watching and anticipating the grand harvest to come.

And then it happened.  The potatoes were twelve, or so, inches high.  The okra was several healthy inches tall, as were also the tomatoes, squash, radishes, cucumber plants, and peppers plants of various kinds.  They were all beautiful, green and healthy.  Then came the thunder.

And with the thunder, came the hail.  I had never seen hail so large.  It was the size of golf balls.  And I had never seen so much of it.  It literally covered the ground in our front yard. 

By the time the thunderstorm had pass over that late afternoon, it was completely dark outside.  So, I had a thought, “Maybe I will just wait for morning to survey the damage.”  Yeah, right.

Armed with my flashlight and my wife, up the hill I went to know how my beloved, first garden had fared under this barrage of ice, heavy rain and wind.  What I saw was amazing.  With the exception of one potato plant, the garden was completely undamaged.  Everything had been spared.  And eventually, even the potato plant recovered, with a little creative propping.  Ah!  More dancing in the land, and this time with wild flashlight gyrations slicing through the night sky.

And so, the little garden on the hill grew.  And every afternoon it became the ritual for my wife, my little girl, and me to walk up the hill to look at it, and to make our astute observations about the changes from the day before.  It was, indeed, a beautiful, and innocent, and beloved thing in our back yard.

And then, one afternoon as the garden matured, God spoke to me about it.  It was a resonating statement, deep in my heart.  Long story short, He said, “I want that.”

At first, I was puzzled.  So, I started figuring out how to tithe on a garden.  But the statement continued, day after day.  Until eventually, I realized, “He’s not taking about a tithe.  He’s talking about the garden, itself, the whole thing.”

At that point, I started to do a little “resonating” of my own.  I said something to the effect.  “Lord, this garden is an innocent thing.  There is no evil involved in this work or ownership.  And, I must be hearing you wrongly.”

But He persisted.  And, I became more and more distressed each day about the whole matter.  I decided that I was going “religiously nuts.”  It happens you know.  Wait! That’s it!  It must be the “nut” grass – not.

Eventually, I realized that this was really God, and I was hearing Him correctly.  I did not understand it then; but now I know that this whole episode was one of those confirming things which serious Christians encounter as they are learning to choose sensitivity and obedience over their own logic.  At any rate, I finally realized what I had to do. 

By now, I had purchased a hoe so my shovel would have somebody to play with.  So, I walked by the tree where the hoe was propped and took hold of it.   I walked straight up the hill; and I chopped down every plant in the garden.

Just as I was completing this horrible emotional ordeal, I looked up to see my wife coming (more like, charging) up the hill.  Looking into her eyes, that day, seemed an awful lot like looking into the business end of a double barrel shotgun. This was, after all, the same wife who had also risked her life, or at least her delicate hands, in the nut grass wars, so that this garden could live.

I knew I better explain myself quickly.   By now, I was weeping as was she.  I threw down the hoe and walked over to her.  I looked her in the eyes and said, “I know this seems insane.  And you do not have to trust me in this.  But I do have to trust Him.  And this is something I had to do.”

And, for a minute or so, we just stood there and stared at each other.  And then I saw my wife relax.  And, as her kind words of forgiveness and understanding (vague, though it must have been) came from her sweet heart, it became obvious that God had brought some wordless explanation to her, which was far superior to mine. 

In fact, there really was no explaining this.  My actions defied normal reason and logic.  They were, indeed, inexplicable – but not in Heaven.  I have come to see since, if not in that moment, that, in Heaven, my actions were perfectly understood and approved. 

I am very well aware that sick and twisted minds can use the idea of blind devotion to do sick and twisted and much more dire and sinister things.  But that is what sick and twisted minds do anyway, and with everything.

Nevertheless, it remains.  God does occasionally ask real and sometimes blind devotion of those who follow him.  And sometimes, he asks us to demonstrate that devotion in very material ways.  And, in fact, these moments of decision are a real part of the growth process which Christ initiates.

I also know that these ideas make the faint of heart uncomfortable.  That is because they are not for the faint of heart.  They are for those who truly hunger after an intimacy with God.  The faint of heart are always a little uncomfortable with a God that may ask more than they want to give.  That is just the nature of their reluctance to invest.

Indeed, our times are filled with a shallowness which simply cannot deal with an “I want that” God.  Rather, the prevailing ethos is “God – only on my terms.”  But all of that is “Bologna Religion.” 

The redemptive transformation is, in fact, costly.  And you absolutely will have to face a few of these “I want that” moments.  These are those moments when God puts his finger on something, an old habit, a bad attitude, a hobby, a bad value, a dream or a possession which really matters to you. 

And you will have to make the right decision at that point.  You will have to offer, and even give to Him, that thing for which He asks.  You will have to actually demonstrate your devotion to Him in real terms.

In the time that has intervened since that twenty sixth summer, I have never, one time, not for one minute, missed that silly garden.  But, I am now convinced that, if I had refused Him that garden, that small sacrifice, and the other offerings and actions of devotion which He has occasionally required of me along the way, I would now be living far beneath my privilege and my opportunity.

The wayward minds of our shallow times have fashioned a god who makes only the most manageable demands regarding love and devotion, and never seriously challenges us to live out, in real ways, a process of personal elevation.   And these times have widely advertised and touted this more convenient “designer god” as the one to follow after.  But be advised, the true and living God is not him.

The God of Heaven will always bring you to those moments of the hard decision.  And He will require that you make those decisions correctly – or try again, until you do.  But, be assured, the more of yourself you give to Him, the more of Himself, He will reveal to you.  Seems like a good trade to me: real access for a simple vegetable garden – or the like. 

You may also want to try this link to, "The Rubber Reality," an article which gives additional insights along these same lines.