Come and Get It

A friend once shared with me how a family tragedy taught her about spiritual roots. She talked about how deep personal darkness left her without energy for pursuing God – all she could do was try to survive, and in the midst of all the heartache, He was there. Because she had done the work before the hard times hit, she found that her roots went down deep, and kept her steady even when all she had energy for was hanging on to Jesus, one day at a time.

I’ve often thought about that since – I love the idea of finding enough grace and strength to survive because we put in the work and grew the roots deep ahead of time.

roots

Having a baby is no tragedy, but these last two years have been spent in survival mode. During the months I struggled with postpartum anxiety, I saw a counselor who told me, “Give it until your baby is two – you’ll feel normal again. Life will become manageable, but give yourself time.”

She was right – Everett turned two this fall, and while life is still full and crazy, things seem to have fallen into place, and we have come out of survival mode. God started stirring me up and making me long for more growth.

During the last two years, I found little snippets of time throughout the day to read my Bible or a few pages of a good book. There were short times of prayer, and lots of hanging on to Jesus, but this fall, it was as though God was saying, “It’s time for the next phase.”

I was having a great conversation with two of my dearest friends one evening, listening to them share about all the things God was teaching them. It was so inspiring to hear all the ways in which He was revealing Himself to them, through His word, and prayer, and great books or podcasts, and I loved hearing all they had to say. But part of me was also getting hungry, and I found myself wanting more of what they had.

I asked God, “Why aren’t you moving in my life that way? I want you to be teaching me and speaking to me like that. Why am I not experiencing more of you?”

Right in that moment, He said to me, “Come and get it.” Immediately, it hit me – it was time for me to get out of survival mode. It was time to get to work. Everything my friends were experiencing was available to me – I just needed to do something about it.

My first excuse was classic, though – “I don’t have time for more!” I thought I was already giving all I could. But as I thought about it, I realized there were little steps I could take – set the alarm 15 minutes earlier, use a Bible reading app instead of Pinterest, get intentional about jotting down the things God was saying to me, even if it was just in Evernote on my phone, here and there throughout the day.

 

Bit by bit, I started carving out the time. The more I did it, the more I wanted it. It felt good.

But I’ve still been a bit disappointed – I wanted to see more results. I’ve been hoping those times of connecting with Jesus would result in a greater ability to be patient. To be a kinder, gentler mom. To show more love to my family. To have greater self-control with my tongue.

I felt these were reasonable expectations – I wanted to see the fruit of the Spirit. It made sense that spending more time with the Spirit would lead to more fruit of the Spirit. Where was my fruit?! I wanted to see more apples on my tree!

Fruit of the Spirit

I shared this frustration last week with those same friends. As one of them prayed for me, she said something about the work that is unseen, and suddenly, I saw a picture of tree roots. It was as though God said to me, “The fruit is coming, but right now, we’re working on the roots.”

It was exactly what I was needing to keep going. I keep tiptoeing down the dark hall to our living room each morning, carefully avoiding the places where the floor squeaks so Everett won’t wake up. I keep putting in that time with Jesus because there is no way I can do this all on my own – two-year-old molars and homeschooling and potty training and explosive emotions and bills to pay and food to make and laundry to fold and all the rest are teaching me that I need to press in closer to Jesus.

Graham Cooke says, “Our circumstances are sent to us to improve the quality of our relationship with God.” I think about that a lot, because weathering a 30 minute tantrum over a pair of pants looks different to me when I see it as an opportunity to improve my connection to Jesus. I love my kids, I love my life, but there are parts of it that are just really¬†hard. Can I remember to take all those hard parts, and depend on God to save us all? To redeem and restore, and bring peace and calm to our frazzled selves?

I need deep roots. I need the fruit, too, but I can understand how the roots come first, so I keep putting in the time. I used to think my failures as a mom meant I needed to try harder. Now, I’m seeing how I just need more time with Jesus. I’m trusting Him to change me. His job is to bring about growth, fruit, and change. My job is to come and get it. It turns out, it’s always going to be found sitting at His feet.

Getting Pulled Up by the Roots

Last week, I had such an amazing experience – I keep going back to it in my mind again and again, and when I was thinking and praying about what to write today, that experience popped into my mind once again….

I was having a really hard day last week – struggling with something weighing far too heavily on my mind. I asked Ben, “How many times have I cried over this same issue?” He said, “Too many.” Too true.

As I sat there on my bed, praying and crying yet again about the issue I was struggling with, I kept getting this extremely clear picture in my mind of roots being pulled out of the ground. It was as though I saw this emotional pain as the physical pain of uprooting. I wanted desperately to be free of that nasty weed, but the roots were hanging on tight. Somehow, it seemed clear to me that I needed to go through the pain and uprooting, even if it would hurt for the time being, so the weed could be gone.

roots

An hour later, I was reading to Anika from Matthew, and suddenly a verse jumped out at me:

“Jesus replied, ‘There are plants that my Father in heaven has not planted. They will be pulled up by the roots….'”

Jesus was talking about the Pharisees, so this was used in a completely different context, but it was so strange to read that verse after the crystal-clear picture I’d had earlier in my mind. Jesus was saying the Pharisees would be uprooted later, but for me in that moment, I felt as though that truth sunk in deeply – if God has not planted something, it must be uprooted.

I could actually feel the release of those roots slithering up from the soil of my life, and I kept thinking, “No matter how hard or painful, I want Him to pull it out. I want to learn to release the roots of what He has not planted.”

And something has changed in me. Every time I’m tempted to go back into that place of pain and sorrow over the issue I was struggling with, and return to that weight I keep insisting on dragging with me, I picture those roots being pulled up. I keep surrendering the issue to God, and asking Him to teach me how to release it.

Is there anything needing to be uprooted in your life?

What a Plant Taught Me About My Relationship With Jesus

When I was in collage, I had a big, beautiful plant named Dave.

He was a dieffenbachia plant, so my roommate and I wanted to give him a name that started with a “D” – Dave, the Dieffenbachia.

He grew to be large and very leafy, and we loved having that fresh burst of green in our room. We heard somewhere that coffee grinds could fertilize plants, and fortunately for Dave, my roommate LOVED coffee. Dave got a lot of coffee grinds that year….

Anyway, Dave did so well in dorm that I brought him back the next year, too. He grew to be as tall as me, big, beautiful and green.

One day, I was sitting in my room doing homework, when I heard a strange rustling sound. I turned around just in time to see Dave fall to the floor and die. It was kind of shocking.

I hurried over to his pot, and pulled a little at his thick stem, trying to figure out what had happened. To my surprise, it came right out of the dirt, just like that.

Dave had no roots.

From the outside, everything looked perfectly fine. There was no indication that anything was wrong, but underneath the dirt, his roots were not growing. But Dave needed deep roots under the surface to support what was growing above the surface.

photo © 2010 Ian nasikoman | more info (via: Wylio)

And I’ve been thinking about how easy it is for my relationship with Jesus to slip into “Dave-mode” – what you see on the outside is really all that there is. Roots start to suffer pretty quickly if they are not getting what they need to grow.

Oswald Chambers writes, “My worth to God in public is what I am in private.” (My Utmost For His Highest, March 17 devotional)

Another quote I love is what Jon Acuff’s dad said to him:

“My primary prayer is for your private, interior life to keep growing so that it can support your growing public life.

Sometimes it scares me how easy it is to fake the public part while completely neglecting the private part. Not that our fake attempts come anything close to a spirit-filled life, but it’s funny how often we try.

But I feel depleted very quickly when I’m giving to a lot of people without getting filled up myself. My giving to others should spill out from the overflow of a heart filled with Jesus – I want so much of Him in me that I can’t run dry. I want Him to pour through me to others.

Healthy roots are required for all of those desires! Deep, private roots.

Moral of the story: Don’t be like Dave!

Dig down deep into Jesus, so that nothing in this world will be able to knock you over.