Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Real Life Women: The Gardening Analogy

How long have you been a Christian: 
Although I didn't get baptized until 1996, I have sought the Lord all my life. Unfortunately the seeking was sporadic, lacking Truth and instruction, and often misguided by complacency and the plateau that can occur organized "religion". I consider 2007 a pivotal time in my faith, a "leap" year so to speak, where the fire began to rage so fervently it makes the first 11 years of my walk seem like a spark! But many a fire begins with a spark!

What's the toughest season you've had in your journey of faith so far? Or what is the biggest lesson you've learned?

The biggest lesson I have learned Is that what we call the "valleys" or pits, are not "death" or dead ends but as the Word says are but a "shadow" (Ps 23:4). They appear more ominous than they can be if we can courageously defer to Truth over emotions and remember that HE is indeed with us (referenced in so many places but I love Joshua 1:9 since he uses "commanded") as we walk "through" (Ps 23) not "to"  them! I visualize the valleys as part of the course, not the circumstantial destination. 

I also realize that I spent too many years thinking "valleys", or hard seasons were "detours" in my course of sanctification. I realize now they are a natural part of the topography, my life course. I also try to remember what any map will show, that some of the best communities are built in the rich soil of the valley floor. The valley floor is the lowest point yet often the ideal place for growing crops, and growing hearts. So I strive to encourage (and be encouraged by -2 Cor 1:4) my brothers and sisters by loving them, wherever they are in their walk, be it on the crest or more often, in those inevitable valleys. (1 John 4:7-12)

How has your relationship with Jesus affected your entire life?

I think I finally realize what "prayer without ceasing" is. It affects the entirety of my life because I dialogue with Him in all thoughts, choices and decisions. The "dialogue" can occur in prayer, in study, in devotion, worship and/or praise. It can be with others, but must also occur when I am alone. If I put on an "attitude of gratitude"  (1 Thes 5:14-18)  I find my days minutes, hours and consequently days and seasons are so much more fruitful.  My flesh often battles my mind, but I hold onto a life philosophy that when my heart and mind are not in agreement I  need to defer to my mind and what I KNOW (Romans 12:2) to be True.  The entirety of my life is impacted by entirety of these Truths, but I also know that there are going to be battle zones, and I must daily put on the only armor which strengthens and equips me for being victorious (Romans 13:12-14).

What would you say to encourage ladies seeking God?

Of course it depends on the context of her pursuit; and her mind set in the pursuit.  Is she well "planted" and trying to have her roots go deeper, or she she a seeking as a new seedling, braving the elements without the depth of knowledge and experience from which seasoned believers draw. Is she confident in her faith, or questioning? Is she in a season of struggle, feeling weak, or in a season of robust growth?

At the risk of over using  the gardening analogy,  I often think in this context as I pray and let God lead me in encouragement.  Some relationships we are attempting to pull weeds together, helping each other find out which big and thorny (or little and discreet) things  have taken root, and may have been "weed whacked" but remain firmly planted.  In this circumstance there is Truth, often painful, always shared in love and held to Scripture, diligently but hopefully extracted. These relationships may have me in more of a "mentor" role but I strive to never assume the weeds i see haven't left seeds my own garden box (Matthew 7:3). Inevitably my garden ends up cleaner as a result of our time on our knees pruning together.

God brings others into my life who have been well pruned and are blossoming, sometimes those just need affirmation that their blossoms are indeed fragrant by loving on them with material or emotional needs. The encouragement is just "fertilizer" on an already prosperous garden.  This encouragement may be anonymous, surprising the recipient or sought, but my main role in that is definitely encourager, not teacher. I find these relationships always have a mutual benefit as well.  As I praise the Lord for His faithful servants, my focus turns from the minutia of life to greater cause, from worry about the predators who may be lurking in the garden to awe of the beauty the Lord produces in His time (Eccle 3:1).

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