(Photo taken by me on my last missions trip to Lima, Peru)
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6
…for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Isaiah 66:8
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
Friends–let us not waste our time lamenting wasted time. Let us allow God to revise every page of our life stories that now hold regrets.
Unworthy though we may be, we learn we must relinquish our past to the work of mercy.
Unless we do, we will forever wander through the long halls of our histories; selecting the worst of our errors and misdeeds to reread as if in endless punishment; stuck in a past that we cannot escape alone.
Do not linger long in the volume of your disappointments.
Reach “The End”.
Close the book.
Don’t pick it up again.
We all are led through a maze of circumstances in our lives: circumstances that can hurt a tender heart in the moment.
But – when we forgive, it surprises the recipient in an amazing way – and our ability to extend said forgiveness probably surprises ourselves even more.
When we must change our plans, we brace for the worst, and then often find ourselves in the place we never thought of, but need to be in.
When we are hurt, we want to hide; grant ourselves self-pity, but when we choose “no excuses”, we grow and stretch.
So look at all of your bumps, bruises, and wrinkled plans, tender heart.
Do you resent them?
Because I think they produced grit, and yet grace.
I think they handed you maturity, and the ability to show mercy.
I think they gave you perspective.
And probably the most shocking thing of all – that you didn’t even realize they did?
By the Grace of God, they made your heart more, not less, tender.
Unpleasant surprises have a way of reversing themselves into producing creative and beautiful results within you.
It’s kind of like a wonderful form of living and ever-working art: the process of God guided growth in your tender, learning heart.
You might call it inspirational, wonderful – even beautiful.
Have you ever noted (I’m sure you have) how nearly all things precious, joyous, and worthwhile–both spiritual and otherwise–require the rather unenjoyable task of discipline to either obtain or improve them?
Most of us already know this. But when you think about it, there is a sort of revelation of how mysterious the Ways of God are, hidden in that fact. It seems backwards and perplexing to our minds. But it is just a reminder that God’s marvelous designs are way over our head–but they still work; and they’re still marvelous.
To innately undisciplined humanity, consistently doing the things we dislike to do seems like we are winding ourselves up in very long, very heavy chains. And yet, once we have done a thing long enough, we begin to realize that we were enslaved–to our whims, passions, and fancies–and only now, through self-control, are we liberated. Chain-free.
Want to be free? Surrender.
Want to be liberated? Submit.
Want life everlasting? Die to self.
Results that abound in contentment and rare happiness are achieved through acting in such a way that seems counterproductive. Ironic. A bit of a puzzle. But effective. And just like the superior Wisdom of God.
Why so anxious over your shadow (power/influence), small tree? Its length and breadth is not as significant as the strength of what lies beneath the surface.
You will grow, given time. And strong winds will blow, as they always do. Winds of change; winds of strange doctrine; accusatory winds. Each gust will test your solidity.
The shadow of the shallow giant will quiver. Yours must remain steady.
The winds may uproot those you once admired. Your branches may rustle; but your core must never be shaken.
Drive your roots deeper.
Remain so preoccupied with the inward, silent, and unseen processes that you forget to take note of the visible.
That is all that counts — lonely, wise tree.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
An old poem of mine that is still a fitting reminder for a new year.
Out of desire that its message to be taken in the way in which I intended, I will dissect it enough to hopefully make it clearer and slightly more meaningful for you.
We should never live in complete isolation; we are not meant to. We should never make important decisions or draw conclusions based on our own feelings or without receiving counsel from carefully chosen, trusted sources–and of course, your pastor.
Note the emphasis on carefully chosen.
Here lies the basis of the poem.
Do you spend so much time in the company of peers that you often turn to someone that has even less “life wisdom” than you do–for advice?
The beauty of counsel is the ability to approach someone that has already learned many of life’s lessons, in order to avoid personal mistakes. Sometimes you need to be alone in prayer and reflection to weed out the “things to keep”; the truly beneficial voices from those which are not.
Do you spend so much time in the company of your peers that your important convictions and opinions all begin to morph into a pool of collective, general agreement?
In continual fellowship, we often unknowingly bend and sway under the pressure of groupthink. Adults, not just young people, succumb. Perhaps you have like-minded friends: that’s a wonderful thing. But to be sure my personal standard is where it would normally be, I try to slip away and consider whether or not I still measure myself exclusively by the Word and opinion of God.
Do you spend so much time in the company of your peers that you begin to compare yourself to them–and lose unique passions, goals, and potential in the reach for self-promotion and meaningless affirmation?
I am perhaps one of the world’s foremost advocates of laughter and friendship. But I want to live independently and unashamedly by the principles that are of true consequence. Depth turns shallow with astounding speed if we have not paused to balance frivolity with regular intervals of quiet introspection.
Perhaps it is time we learned to slip away into “a solitary place” or “a mountain apart” to pray, to really think, and to distance ourselves, if not in body, then in spirit, from all outside voices.