Those of you who know me will know that I get easily overwhelmed. I’m a big picture person, but I get overwhelmed when I see all the steps that lead to the big picture. My husband is excellent at visualizing the steps and methodically taking them while I’m a disaster waiting to happen. I have to be given small steps and some sort of reward after each step. So here I am living in a house that is still needing to be sorted out as our belongings simply don’t fit. We have a huge garden that was left unprepared for Winter and now Spring. And those are only two of the pieces of our current lives that are needing tending. I feel very overwhelmed.
And to be honest, I feel very barren and hard from the season of winter that we just went through. I have spent many nights wrestling with God, asking questions, and trying to sort through the why of how things have happened. It’s been hard. I’m not disappointed or angry at God at all; I just don’t know where to find a ray of hope or how to get back into joy.
So lately, I’ve noticed a pattern of things that keep flagging my attention. The first has been the need for fasting. The second has been the idea of pruning and planting. And I think the two go together, so I’ll try to explain it as best as I can. Back in high school, I attended a very conservative Christian school where the theology differed from the Charismatic church that my dad pastored. I was always in between both worlds and navigating as best as I could. Twenty years later, I still sort through the various teachings; the main one now being the contrast between a theology that teaches that God causes suffering and a theology that hugely emphasizes faith. I do not believe that God causes suffering at all. Let me just be clear on that. I do though struggle to always have faith. I struggle and wonder where the abundant life is. I wonder how when we sold all of our belongings, took a huge leap of faith to move to a foreign land, pioneered a new ministry, left family and friends to begin the long process of making new friends . . . then 15 months later had to uproot again and sort it all out in a new place. The past three months have been financially disastrous for us; they’ve been isolating. They’ve been hard. It’s felt like winter in every sense of the word. Like we got a shock pruning. And now I can’t figure out why I look so barren.
This house that we moved to has several fruit trees and rose bushes that were not cared for, and so a gardener came and pruned them all. It kind of shocked us as he did such a huge pruning job and we can’t imagine that we’ll get any fruit at all this season. Maybe we will or maybe it’ll just be a season of recovery for the trees; I don’t know? I do know that pruning is hugely important for good crops. I understand the benefits of it, and I understand the purpose of seasons. But some seasons are certainly easier than others.
And this leads me to fasting. Due to the chaos we’ve been in, our eating habits have suffered. Our sleep has suffered, and Mark and I feel 40. 🙂 For those of you who are older, go ahead and laugh. But it’s a shock to realize that we’ve hit this age and FEEL it! So as fasting keeps coming up over and over, I realized that a.) I have not done a serious fast in a long time. We need a good detox. But more than just a physical detox, I’m realizing that b.) my flesh needs some pruning. I have coped through the past few months with things I never do – like watching TV, eating BAGS of chocolate, and sleeping without brushing my teeth!!! (so gross . . . especially with the lack of dental care we’re in). I’m way overdue for a good time period of seeking God and denying all my comforts. And actually, the soft, comfy life is gross after a while. If anything, I needed a pruning to get me to see the soft areas where I haven’t been diligent spiritually. I heard a teaching recently about how mature Christians sow seeds through prayer, intercession, and fasting. They sacrifice in order to see a bountiful harvest. Immature Christians reap the reward of their sacrifice, and that’s okay for baby Christians. It’s not okay for old Christians like myself. And so I’m also seeing that as I prepare to tackle our vegetable garden; it will require a lot of my time if I want to get any harvest at all. It will require a commitment to work and faithfulness to tend the soil and the plants as well. Yet why don’t I see that in my spiritual life? Why do we run from diligent work? Why don’t I sacrifice more of my time to be in God’s presence? And how can I expect to see a bountifully fruitful life if I haven’t sown the time into it? How can I ask for the abundant life when I’m not positioning myself to steward it well?
So I don’t believe that God is the cause of anything that’s happened recently; nor do I see that He’s “allowed” it. I see that life is hard. I see that what we’ve set out to do is very hard. Nothing we have set out for is going to be easy. And even if we trust and ask for God’s favor and His blessing on it, it doesn’t cancel out the work and the diligence that is needed. Sometimes faith is more than just believing; actually, it is more than just believing. Faith is not quitting. And we’re too far in to quit anyway, but faith is the act of continuing to step forward. I have to continually head towards the promise; I have to see that joy, see the abundant life, and see the fruit as it’s before me. And I want a full, fruitful Summer and Autumn. I want to see some fruit from all the sacrifice. So it’s time to trust the Gardener, trust His pruning, and go deeper in Him. Possibly deeper than we have for a while, yet all with the hope that Summer is coming and we will get beyond this season.
(The photo is of one of our trees that just went through the pruning; looks harsh, doesn’t it?)