The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The sun can now get right down into every corner of the garden, the tender shoots of new grass can finally start to flourish.
A highly unusual meeting...
I’ve a meeting with God in the garden behind the house. (Oh! yes, there are some stunning beauties in God’s creation, but not of the kind you might find out on a Saturday night, ok?).
Seated in the middle of the garden on a tottering chair drifting in a sea of grass, half swallowed up by climbers, I await Him, (God is never late, I’m early). He’s bound to teach me something new today... (?)
I listen to the plants grow.
This would be just like a jungle if I were the size of a Lego man... how cool would that be!
My gaze ceases to wander, my eyes focus in and narrow as I take in the sight before me with growing disappointment. Before me extends the very essence of ‘the axis of evil’ (to be said in a deep bass).
The Kingdom of thorns
The far end of the garden is full of thorns, tarnati... deep breath, one, two (there, I never said it!).
As soon as I approach them they cling to me for no reason (supposedly I get too close to them, yeah, whatever)...
What’s more, they seem to take an evil delight in scratching my blameless Christian face...
My faith is like this garden too, God takes it as it is!
For as long as I can recall, there’s been this thorny patch in the yard. It reminds me of certain areas of my life where thorns abound, areas that I’ve decided I just have to accept, for better or worse... (all of us have at least one of these, don’t we?)
Hmmm?... What if I tried to see things differently?
With some hand pruners in one fist and a prayer in the other, I slice through the deadly branches of the shrub of death:
– Oh! God, please do the same with me, remove these thorns from my character, and these from this relationship, and these from this particular problem...
If I’d had any curious neighbors who liked nothing more than a good mystery, they’d have been absolutely enthralled! Every morning for an hour, the mountain of thorns outside the house shook and shrank and was subjected to earnest imprecations such as:
– In the name of Christ, I cut you! And you! Ouch! #*@! Take that, and that! Aha! Hey you! Unhealthy tie to the past! Snap!
I lop off the clinging thorns and as I do so, the thorns of my past life loosen their grip on me.
Oops! Something’s moving out there!
This week, I was in conversation with the person for whom I’ve been praying most at the moment, when they showed me their bracelet – black, studded with sharp metal points – and said:
– Look, they’re just like thorns...
How weird is that?!
Gloves of justification
One day, an elderly person gave me some amazing, brand new leather gloves, just like that – it was a bit strange, but hey... Thanks to them, I can now grab hold of handfuls of thorns with no ill-effects. These gloves make me think of how we are made righteous in the eyes of God when we entrust our life to Christ.
I strongly advise against entering into this spiritual combat unless you’re completely protected by this righteousness!!!
However, wear and tear has resulted in a teeny little hole in one of the fingers of the glove (the middle finger! Why am I not surprised...). And all too often, it’s this unprotected area that gets hurt, sometimes even to the point of drawing blood.
– Lord, is there a part of my life which I haven’t put into your hands?
The end of a world
A week later, the backyard looks very different.
– What’s next, God? What’s happening in the backyard of my own life?
Believe it or not, this is what happened next: Without warning (I hadn’t even touched it), the smartphone I was holding quoted a verse of Scripture to me (I’ve got the entire Bible downloaded on my phone):
– The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers!
... I would have preferred an instant transformation, but a promise of change from God is pretty good too!
(Now that I think of it... is this cellphone possessed or something!?)
The benefits of combat
The sun can now get right down into every corner of the garden, the tender shoots of new grass can finally start to flourish. My children (and their children and grand-children too) will be able to walk here in their bare feet with not a worry in the world, relaxing in the gentle warmth of summer evenings.
And what’s more, there’ll never be a time when they can remember seeing the garden in any other state.
Your troubles do not define your destiny... fight the good fight!