Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Growing in New Directions

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live - Romans 8:13

The other day I went out in the back yard and literally hacked down our Hibiscus bush.  Really.  It no longer resembles anything alive and flourishing with beautiful red and yellow flowers, but instead looks like a skeleton of it's former self.  I chopped off all the smaller branches from their base and knocked down the height of this overgrown bush from a towering 8 feet to something under 5 feet.  (I should know.  I can now see over the top of it.  I am only 5 feet tall...on a good day :).  In short, it looks ruined.

Why did I do this, you ask?  Well, that beautiful Hibiscus bush was growing all right, but all in the wrong direction.  I was only growing up, and not out.  While the branches extended high up into the vast spaces above my head, I could see through all the spindly little branches from 0 - 5 feet.  It was tall, yet thin; growing up, yet not providing what it was created for - privacy.

Lately I've felt like my hacked down Hibiscus bush.  I have felt torn down and stripped bare.  I have felt removed of my protective covering and 'ruined'.

You see, my sins and my sinful nature have been in my face, and for every sin that God was revealing, it felt  like an old limb was being removed.  I have disappointed and even hurt close friends - Whack! I have spoken many a wrong word in many a wrong time - Snap!  I realized that instead of testifying to the work God was doing in my own heart, I was delighting in exposing other people's sin - Ouch!  That limb that I used to hang my hat on - you know the one labeled 'Accomplished' and 'In Control' is suddenly missing.  It has left me somewhat despairing and easily depressed about my status in life, and I have felt like a skeleton of my former self...just like my backyard companion.

But God has also provided hope.  While that little bush looks dead, it is actually learning to grow in new directions.  It can no longer focus all of its energy on growing taller.  It must learn to grow outward and fill in the gaps around the middle.  I have discovered that God too wants me to grow not only upward, but to grow outward - to reach out to His people instead of trying to grow so tall that I can only see them if I look down upon them.  The new growth is weak, fragile even.  It will take time for the fledgling buds to grow into strong, dependable branches that reach out and serve the purpose for which it was created.  But there is growth!  And it's growing in the right direction this time.

While I may at this time feel a bit 'ruined' from all of God's whacking, slicing and pruning, it is still my prayer that what I perceive as my ruins become the ground He builds upon.  To borrow a few lines from one of my favorite recording artists, "Let my ruins become the start.  Let me ruins become the ground He built it on, from what's left of my broken heart." (Ruins, Bebo Norman)

May the One whose love has no limit,
Whose grace has no measure,
Whose power has no boundary known unto men.
May He from His infinite riches in Jesus,
(Also) Send you help from His sanctuary
and grant you His support from that heavenly Zion.
Psalm 20:2

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