Dear Pastor’s Wife,
One of my favorite things about life is the fact that God, the Creator, built in so many visuals and object lessons about Himself into everyday life. I am continually asking God to open my eyes to what is beyond what I can see- things I need to learn from what is right in front of me. These things are not usually earth shattering or life altering in the moment, but seedlings that nestle into the ready soil of my heart. And they are perfect for a letter to you, my kindred spirits.
Something I’ve cultivated a growing interest in (pun intended) in the past 5 years is nurturing kitchen herbs. I just love having them close by to snip off for soups and salads and homemade pizza and infused water. When we left the USA a few months ago to move to South Africa, I left my herbs behind at the height of summer. So one of the first things I did upon moving in our home here was to purchase small pots of starter herbs- parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon thyme, peppermint, and my favorite- basil. Our house gets full sun every day, and in the afternoons that wonderful warm gold shines into the kitchen- right into the lifted leaves of my herbs.
A few weeks after bringing my herbs home, they started to droop a bit, and I recognized the signs of being root bound and in need of a new space to grow. So recently I made time to transplant them into new, rectangular planter boxes- two plants to a box. Since the boxes still fit nicely on my windowsill, I simply returned them to their sunny home.
Just a few days after repotting, I noticed that the plants were doing very well- sprouting new leaves, reaching for the sun, soaking up water. But some of them had begun to look rather lopsided. Hmm, what’s going on?, I thought, curiously pulling one of the planters off the sill to look at the other side.
Upon turning the planter around, I noticed that the side that had faced the window was lush and full, and every leaf was turned upward to the sun. Only then did I realize how truly lean the side facing me (that hadn’t gotten direct sun) was. Still green, but lean.
Instantly the Holy Spirit pricked my heart, and I got the truth that was being exhibited in my herbs and herb growing efforts. As I turned each planter around so their other sides could receive full sun, I prayed, “God, shine Your Word into my heart- on all sides. Show me if I have a side without the Son…a side, a part that isn’t growing as evenly or reflecting You as clearly, maybe some leaves that aren’t turned up to face You.”
Instantly (again) God brought something to mind that I need (and now want) Him to change and make more like Him. Sometimes we can be so blind, even in the midst of our very good desires to be more like Jesus. We need to evaluate, cry out to God like the Psalmist did, asking His Creator to search and know him. Asking Him to create again- this time a clean heart, and to replace a selfish spirit with a God-oriented one. As I prayed through Psalm 19 this morning, asking God to do in my heart exactly what He says His Word is and will do (verses 7-11), verse 12 stopped me in my tracks.
David essentially asks aloud who is able to discern his/her own heart. Not one. We need to break away from our own thoughts and evaluations of how we are doing spiritually, because we truly cannot know the depth of our needs without the searching light of Scripture and the loving exposure of our Creator. In David’s next breath, he answers his own question by asking God to cleanse his heart from secret or hidden faults- the ones he can’t see. I have written in the margin of my Bible next to this phrase, “Don’t let me operate under a false self in any area.”
My herbs were doing ok, but not as well as they could have been doing, because they had a side without the sun. As I looked at them each day, enjoying and watering them, they looked pretty good to me. But they were operating under a false sense of wellbeing. Only when I, their planter and tender, turned them around could I see what was actually happening.
Having the light of the Word expose the corners of our hearts can be uncomfortable. We don’t like to come face to face with our sinfulness. It’s ugly, and the very thing that broke our Creator’s heart and sent Him to the cross. When we face our sin, we face the Gospel. But the built-in hope of the Gospel doesn’t leave us staring at our sin. The person of Christ comes into view, and we are redeemed. Now we gaze at HIM while He, in love, tends our souls with Himself and His Word, so that we look more and more like Him.
The same sun that burns the tourist and poisons the beach goer who stayed too long, perfectly tans the farmer while bringing life to the vegetation that is so dependent on it for life.
The same Son Who became sin for us and endured a sunless night on the cross is also the light of the world who brings the contrast of spiritual light to dark corners…even the ones in our hearts.
You know, our dogs seem to have it down pat. They know exactly where in the house gets direct sun, and they plant themselves there every morning waiting for the sun to rise. As the sun moves, so do they. When they are outside, they move from place to place, following the sun and turning their bodies so that all sides receive the warmth and light they crave. They are self directed to follow the sun.
But not my plants. While they can stretch their leaves up to the light, they cannot turn themselves completely around without human help. And so I cannot explore the dark corners of my heart unaided. I must daily allow my loving Creator to shine His Word into my heart. And further, I must ask Him to do so, and then be willing to look and listen with awareness, and to acknowledge and repent of what He shows me.
My herbs are so much happier now. And so am I, because I’ve just seen God once again illuminate a dark corner that needed the Son. I couldn’t even see it, but now it’s as clear as day.
I hope this encourages you to open your heart with fresh honesty before God. You just might discover a side without sun. He never exposes us to condemn us, only to change us. And He does it so gently, with such tender care…how can we help but respond with submission?
A Kindred Spirit
P.S. You might want to check on your houseplants…maybe turn them around today? 🙂 They will smile back- I’m sure of it.