“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” — Matthew 6:30-33
Our dining table sits inside a large window facing west. Our yard slopes somewhat gracefully and a bit bumpily down towards the woods, crossing a couple of acres of native grass and wildflowers to where a solitary path disappears into the trees. This window provides for me a view of how God designed His world to change and grow and survive.
Twelve years at this window have shown me His persistence. Piles of drifting snow give way to fields of purplish weeds, dotted with brilliant yellow early dandelions. Mowing removes the bright colors and introduces the lush green of the later grass, which will eventually fade and dry and lie beneath the leaves until the snow returns. The winds will come to release the new seeds and return to remove the brittle leaves. The trees are taller each spring and more full. The birds are bountiful, building nests; the hummingbirds busy on the flowers and then again reduced to a few hearty winter birds who hunker down and peck at the frosty ground. The clouds are wispy, then powerful, then come stationary days of gray, then absent all together for days, giving way to a bright panorama, sometimes blazing hot, sometimes searing cold.
This morning, sitting at the table, having breakfast, Lisa remarked that the redbud trees were more beautiful than ever. She has a view directly out the window. I have a more restricted view from the left at the end of the table and can see only the slower hardwood tree, the one that has yet to produce its leaves. For me, the scene still seems like winter and I can, if I choose, refuse to believe the trees are changing, responding to the life inside them, shrugging off their dormancy, springing to life, rejecting the dull deadness that had reduced them to stick figures on the landscape. After all, it’s my view, restricted by the curtains which frame the window. I can claim that nothing changes if I want. It would, of course, be a lie.
This morning, Lisa rose from the table and pulled back the curtains to reveal the redbud tree . . . for me to see. The untruth of the bare tree dissolved. As I looked at it in a broader picture, with the redbuds near and the emerging grass beneath, I was aware it too was alive, with little bumps along the branches, like promises.
I noticed neither the redbud nor the other tree was holding a sign. “Look at me, I’m beautiful and better than the other trees.” “Look at me, I’m going to be better. I’ll catch up.” Nor was the truly dead tree I had chopped down in winter to burn in a spring bonfire. “Look at me, I gave up.”
I’m not going to go into roots and branches and water and good and bad soil and good and bad fruit. These are plants, not people, but they teach us. Those parables have been presented in a better way than I can do.
What I am wondering about this morning is why we accept so much change in every little facet of God’s creation as natural . . . and then refuse to think that men cannot change . . . or be changed? Or, why we think that every man or woman who struggles through the dead of winter and reveals all the twisted and bare branches has to suddenly burst forth in brilliant change like a redbud? Why do we not see the little bumps that appear on the branches . . . the promises?
Why do we hold signs? “You can’t change.” “You are who you are?” “You’ve done too much.” “Give up.”
Why do we want to chop a few down here and there and set them aside for the bonfire?
Why do we draw the curtains and sit to the left or right so we don’t have to consider the view straight-on?
Why do we believe the lie?
And why do we tell the dormant through our motions and our words that they have no choice but to believe the lie themselves? That there is no Spring . . . not for them. Can we not hear the birds singing once again?
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — I Corinthians 2:9
I visited on line with a young man in California last night who said he had believed the lie that he had no choice but to be gay. Just a young man, he still said he had lived the gay lifestyle “for many years.” It must have seemed so long, like a winter that will not end. He had been told by therapists to accept himself and explore the lifestyle. I don’t know if they told him that God created him that way, because I don’t know if they believe in God. I only know that they told him a lie. And it had a shelf life that extended for years. His heart would prod him with the truth, but he would fall back on the insight of the blind and pursue peace among the wandering. Recently, someone dared to tell him the truth and declared they would walk with him, as a Christian should.
I am angry at culture for taking control . . . and I am angry at Christians for yielding it. We refuse to see the mold that grows on the lies, turning them sickly green and poisonous . . . and in our own fears, we extend the shelf life of the lies.
Perceiving the struggler as a creeping contagion, we fortify our walls, retreat to the safety of our churches, demand rapid evidence of repentance, shrug at the scraped knees and elbows of the fallen, lay out plans, measure progress, pronounce judgment and rejoice that we have protected the flock from the wandering sheep by herding them into a circle. Do we not understand that rejection feeds the fire? These are not wildflowers.
“He was not really a sheep. He was a wolf.”
So, there is this second lie. The first, which sends the sexually broken down the path to darkness is the one the world provides: “You are who you are.”
The second lie is the one the church too often tells us: “If you were really a Christian, you would not have this problem.”
What a comfortable and dismissive lie it is. Let’s just take the moldy bread and wrap it in an opaque cover and hide the decay.
But wait? Isn’t that true?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! — II Corinthians 5:17.
But what of the man or woman who is a Christian and yet struggles with the multi-layered, multi-faceted sin of sexual brokenness — homosexuality, idolatry, adultery? Or, heaven forbid, the Christian who gossips, or lies, or judges, or cruises pornography before approaching the pulpit or teaches a Bible study to tell others how to live, or has sex after the prom before heading to church on Sunday, or plans a hasty marriage to hide a pregnancy?
We have so many planks, we don’t know whether to build a mightier temple or a stronger barricade.
We like to fill our pews with redbud trees that demonstrate the beauty and glory of God’s greatest work. They get the attention, the praise, the “so-glad-to-see-yous.” Not so comfortable to have beside us are the hardwoods — the hard cases that are trying to work their roots into the soil, searching for water — hiding the bumps on the branches in hopes of being given a little more time to come forth in new life. Maybe a couple here and there truly died in the harshest of winters, but most are just in need of the light and warmth of the Son. We’re neglecting the landscape. Many individuals and families — greatly treasured and loved by Christ, who died for them as much as for the most pious among us — are hurting and being stunted . . . and it is not necessary.
Like a bulging can, or a piece of rotting fruit, these lies have gone long beyond their shelf life. In our denial of the power of Christ to open his arms to every seeker, we have sent them searching elsewhere into a culture that will tell them Christ Himself is but a myth. Live and let live . . . for tomorrow we die.
The lies of culture and the lies of the church are both in dire need of a recall. Truth is the fertilizer of faith, and faith is what we claim to live by. Yet . . . when we approach the broken as if there is nothing that can be done for them here . . . our faith falls on fallow ground. Nothing grows. Nothing changes. And then we want to say it is not our responsibility anyway. They’re the ones who are all messed up. If you really feel that comfortable with who you are, you should be more zealous than anyone with helping those who have fallen.
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” — Matthew 17:20
Faith and truth are God’s products . . . and they never expire.
God can use the church to heal His people. But first, we need to heal the church. Instead of hiding from the world, we need to pull back the curtains and take a wider view. He created it all. Even the broken reflect his touch.