I do not garden. I think that gardening is a noble thing, a very eco-friendly way to get your veggies and what not. Some people say that it is therapeutic, others say it's just their way of life. I say, "I'm just not there yet!" My friend Kelli, is totally there. This year Kelli started making her own bread, and they planted a square foot garden. The bread is delicious and the vegetables are full of flavor. She has done an amazing job.
This week we went over to Kelli's house to just hang out. I hope some of you have at least one friend like that. The girls baked cookies, the boys played whatever they made up, it was just fun. However, they were all getting a little rowdy and it was finally in the 80's here (my kids keep saying that it's freezing!) so we went outside. Kelli's garden is always the first place the kids go. It is neat. It's so full of great stuff and this time we found some not so great stuff. I always ask Kelli to tell me what everything is and she, with great joy and pride in their hardwork, shows me. As we were looking at her cherry tomatoes she said, "Dang it, look at that. Those caterpillars keep eating my cherry tomatoes. I picked about 7 off already and now there are two more." I just giggled because she was so serious about her frustration, to me they were merely caterpillars. I asked her what she was going to do when she picked them off, "Kill em'." She replied without hesitation. "Kill em'?" I questioned. "Kelli, they're just caterpillars. Can't you just toss em' over the fence?" "NO!" Was her emphatic reply. "They'll just come back and they are eating my plants!" So, she squashed them, just like that. I was sort of sad, we had a caterpillar garden a year or two ago, and I loved watching them change and grow. They seemed rather harmless. I looked at another plant and said, "Man, what's that?" There was this big, fat, green thing sitting on the stem. "Look at that!" Kelli was getting fired up, "that is a hornworm and it has stripped that entire stem of it's leaves. Look at that! That makes me so angry." Now, I must tell you that Kelli was really mad. It makes me laugh out loud...what we have to remember is that it is HER garden. These little pests were destroying HER work. This is HER crop.
"What are you going to do with it?" I questioned curiously. "I have to get it off and kill it!" Kelli was on a mission now. "Well, how you gonna get it off?" "I don't know. I don't want to touch it." She tried scraping it off with a newspaper, but that bad boy was on there to stay. It had already made that plant breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and was hanging around for a little snacky-poo. I grabbed a bat, half joking, and said, "We could knock it off." "Try it." Kelli said with a determined tone in her voice. "I think it might break the stalk off." "I don't care, it already ate everything on it. See if you can hit it off." Now, I must stop there to say that Kelli and I are in our thirties. This hornworm was not going to like, jump off and eat our faces. We are not covered in leaves and should not have felt threatened by its 2 inches of nasty. That being said, I whacked it. I had to whack it two or three times before I finally broke the stalk where it was. Now what? Who was going to pick it up? I did (I picked up the stalk that it was on...not the actual pest...gross), but I was squealing and so was she. We called the boys because we figured it was a teachable moment, and they thought it was awesome. It really was beautifully made. It had these amazing designs...but it was a worm nonetheless. So, of course Kelli is ready to kill it. I told her she shouldn't kill it on the pavement because what if it splattered. Who wants a splattered hornworm on their sidewalk? Not me. So, she took it futher down in the grass and squashed it with her shoe. I was far back (avoiding the spray) and she said that it just sort of flattened out. It was just empty. Hm. Empty. All that fuss over an empty hornworm.
I've been thinking about that for a few days and today at Zumba it did form into a blog. Here's what I've got...
Many times people talk about the garden of our heart and how God pulls the weeds so that the flowers don't get choked out and we are able to live blameless lives by His grace. But, riddle me this. What if we pulled the weeds and fed the flowers/veggies and didn't do one thing about the pests? What if we just said, "Well, you've just got to expect that. It is, afterall a garden. Just let them be." We would NEVER produce a harvest. What if my friend just said, "Well, I'm just glad that I can help those little pests out. Give them a little something to munch on." That was not her response at all. She was angry because these little buggers were destroying her crop. They were actually eating and enjoying that which was meant for her family and friends. They were not welcome. She was legitimately angry and wanted them not just over the fence, she wanted them dead...never to return.
Ladies, sin is sin. Before I say that we are all sinners and it's just something that we need to live with, let me remind us all of Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Jesus not only died for our sin, He did with our sin. It is defeated. It has no dominion over us. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 and "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Romans 6:18. Having that said, we live in a fallen world. We are fallen people. There are little pests in this world that can cling to our lives and nibble away until we have been stripped of our leaves first, and then our fruit. We will still belong to the Father (Kelli's garden is hers with our without the pests)but our lives are no longer healthy and life giving. They have been invaded. That's bad news. As I watched how Kelli really got angry at these little nasty things I thought, "I want to be that angry about my little pests." I want to be furious at the little things that crawl into my life almost undetected and nibble away until I am an impatient, merciless, and aggravated mess. I want to be able to recognize them, pick them off, and put them to death. That sounds pretty aggressive doesn't it? The enemy is aggressive. Let me remind us all what John 10:10 tells us about the thief, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Those bugs are not offering Kelli squat. They are not paying rent or leaving tips. They are there for themselves and themselves only. How is Jesus different? He comes to give life to the full.
Let me remind you how beautiful that thing was. It was a lovely color of green and had these really neat black zig zags all the way down it's body. I have things in my life that are pretty. I have friendships, gifts and talents...but used outside of God's goodness and enjoyed without His grace, they are dangerous. I must be aggressive with the pests that creep in. They might be in this world, but I do not have to let them munch on me. Not my time, not my energy and not my mind. I belong to Christ. All that I have is His. Anything that threatens that should be put to death. Just like that. I shouldn't just dismiss these things (gossip, laziness in lovng God with my mind, being short-tempered with my family...my list goes on)as natural. They are natural, but Christ has overcome the world. In Him, I do not have to live like that. I do not have to allow these things to choke out the fruit that God is bringing forth in my life. I know that I will struggle until Glory, but perhaps I should allow a little fire to well up in my belly. Maybe I should get angry at these things. Let me remind you that the hornworm was empty inside. Empty. So is the sin that we pursue willingly and that pursues us with a vengeance. It has nothing to offer. It only takes. It gives no nourishment. It leaves no tips. It comes, with it's master's permission, to steal, kill, and destroy.
I want you to be encouraged that freedom from any sin that has attached itself to you is fogiveable. If you are struggling to live in the freedom that Christ has provided, pray that God would give you grace to repent and the ability to walk in freedom. Ask a trusted friend to pray with you and for you so that you can live the life that God desires for you.
I feel like I could go on and on. I want to be understood (an idol of mine). I want you all to know that we will struggle with sin, but that we are no longer ruled by it. We can be set free from it. We have been set free from it...through Christ's death and resurrection.
We do not have to live with hornworms and caterpillars. They might be pretty, but they are dangerous and they have no place in the garden of our heart. Get angry. Pick them off and put them to death. I'll be doing the same.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and od not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
How can we be aggressive? Memorize scripture so that when you find yourselves struggling with sin, you can fight with God's word. Surround yourself with people that can love you and help you. When we bring things into the light...they tend to lose their hold...do this in a safe and trusted environment. Declare that the victory is yours. Pray. Keep your eyes on Jesus.