The Gardener

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done – then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” 

Photo: Getty Images

Take heart, for I have overcome the world.

I had this entire blog post planned out for more than a week, but when I went to hit publish last night I couldn’t do it. I heard the same message God gave me last June: It’s Not About You.

For the better part of this past year, He has graciously, sweetly and firmly spoken this truth to me. It sparked a new dimension in our relationship and has served as a humbling daily reminder. When I’m angry, annoyed, overly emotional, frustrated or just crying for no reason I go back to the simple truth that when the why is peeled back and prayed on the root cause is my own pride and need for control.

But salvation is only found in surrender to Jesus – not ourselves. Jesus overcame the sins of this world by lovingly sacrificing himself so that we could live. Apart from him and his love I am nothing. This excruciatingly necessary uprooting of self has resulted in the most challenging, exhausting and altogether rewarding year of my life.

I approached 30 with eager anticipation! It was going to be my banner year – a year where every moment would come together and reveal who I was meant to be. Well, 30, you painfully exceeded every expectation.

Last year, my life was an overgrown garden – full of potential and promise, but the weeds of distractions, vanity, pride and self-righteousness were beginning to overrun the beauty. The crazy thing about weeds is that they can be pretty. Do you remember making dandelion chains as kids? Those bright yellow weeds look and smell like a flower, but when left unchecked and without proper pruning, they create an environment that makes it nearly impossible for other things to grow.

Last April, the year of asking God to seek my heart, point out my offense and help me grow closer to him began. I made the choice to start my mornings with my Bible and journal, and in June, I was reflecting on a verse when I felt overwhelmed with this truth:

 It’s Not About You. It never will be. If your heart is true, then you will understand that your relationship with Jesus starts with surrendering self-reliance. From this day forward and forevermore you must put Him first.

I wish I could say I did a 180 and never looked back, but I started slowly instead.

I pulled out the obvious things and for a little bit everything looked better. However, it wasn’t long before new weeds popped up and took root in the open spaces I created. At this point, my attitude was to Marie Kondo this garden. I started ripping out everything. Heck, if I needed to, I was willing to burn it to the ground.

I loved that garden though and I tried transplanting some of the things I wanted to keep by setting them aside. Some withered, but with love, water and sunshine they perked back up and grew heartier than ever. Others never recovered from the move, and no matter how much time I invested in them, they weren’t strong enough to thrive.

Months were spent mourning their loss. 

I cried out like David to let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. Most days felt like a battle between what was, what is, and what will be. And if I’m being honest a lot of the time it sucked.

But God keeps his promises and He promises joy, rejuvenation, and victory over our troubles. We will not die, but we will live to tell what the Lord has done. This undying love and faithfulness has been my reason for joy this past year.

I clung to it in the midst of cancer scares in myself, my Dad, my Mom and in the loss of my Aunt to cancer. I pleaded with God to revive the spiritual side of my family. I prayed for him to give me strength to leave behind the friends and relationships that were putting a strain on my pursuit of Him.

When I got angry along the way, I chose not to blame God. I decided to ask him to align my will with his and to grant me the wisdom and discernment to trust him. He showed me that there is a freedom in forgiving people who never apologized in the first place. He opened my eyes to where my deeply rooted feelings of insecurity and fear come from and taught me how to fix them.

God stood beside me as I battled against my natural instinct to retreat from everyone, seclude myself and do it on my own. He gave me the courage to not apologize in order to appease others – especially when it would mean compromising what I know to be true – for even the rocks would cry out if I held back!

God reminded me daily that I am forgiven and that even when I feel broken beyond mending, that I am ridiculously enough. He reminded me that I am a treasure who is loved.

So, no, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Easter and my birthday collided. On a day that would normally be all about me – this year, it wasn’t. It was a day about him and what he’s done for all of us. I was grateful that people didn’t know it was my birthday and wished me a Happy Easter instead.

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 31. After all, the promise of the cross and empty grave is the best gift any of us will ever receive.

Biblical References:

John 16:33; Mathew 10:38; Romans 5:4; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 13:2; Psalms 121:7-8; Psalms 123:4; Psalms 124:8; Psalms 125:2; Psalms 116:7; James 1:2; Psalms 12:6; John 15:11; John 5:29; Psalms 119:50; Psalms 118:17; Jonah 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:7; Philippians 4:6; 1 John 4:18; Psalms 46:3; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:13; Romans 10:9-10; Luke 19:40; Mark 4:3-20

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