Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lessons from an Arctic Willow

For the past few weeks in my reading, my time with the Lord, and through The 7th Year study, I've become conscious of a new perspective God wants to give me.  The Holy Spirit has gently revealed this truthful picture:  "Lattice, some of my children feel secure thinking of Me as their safety net, then balk when they see that I intend to lead them through a refining fire.  But you, My are much more secure.  You tend to light the fire, enthusiastically jump into it, then invite Me to get in with you!"  (No wonder half my relatives think Christianity is crazy, huh?!)

What can I say?  He's right!  I have always preferred masterminding and lighting prescribed burns to putting out catastrophic wildfires!  ;~)

His point, though, is that while I am secure in His planning, I struggle with His pacing.  So these weeks, the Lord is retraining me--restraining my habit to anticipate His next move, then just roll up my sleeves and dive in and do it.  His training method surprises and intrigues me.  For instance, last week when I was out running intervals (running is not something I love or am good at, and I particularly don't like running intervals, but sometimes it's time...), as I looked ahead and anxiously tried to anticipate where I'd speed up and where I'd slow down, or which way I'd go at the next intersection, I suddenly became aware of God's presence, remembered that "I" was really "we," and the Lord murmured consolingly, "Don't fret.  Don't anticipate.  I'll tell you when it's time..."  You know what?  Running seemed a lot easier this way,!...running with God?  It's a whole new concept...  Who'd've thought?

He's also changing my picture of our relationship.  Until we had the fire talk above, I sincerely used to see us as Him leading and me trying to follow, but not really follow from behind so much as understand Him to the point that I could anticipate and work for Him independently, like Gibbs and his NCIS team.  But now I understand why I felt like I was on my own so often, in spite of His assurance that He'd never leave me.  Since I was often jumping ahead, I lost sight of Him regularly.  I used to reassure myself by praying, "God, thank You that You're always with me wherever I go..." Or try to get myself back on track with, "God, please lead me follow..." But now I sense that a more accurate prayer is, "Father, please take me with You."

Immanuel means "God with us."  

Not "with" as in alongside us, but rather "with" as in in us.  

Not "with" as in me right here and you right there, but rather "with" as in one.

My 7th Year assignment this past week has been to:
  1. Prayerfully ask the Lord to show me how to transition my actions from originating in my head (my own reasoning, my plans, my pace) to originating from His heart.  
  2. Hold this prayer throughout the week with gentle attentiveness, not wrestling with it, but offering it as a continual question and willingness to learn.
  3. Take it with me each day as I go on a walk with the Lord outside, investing the walking time in noticing details of God's creation.

And here is one lesson I learned on a very short walk (just a few yards from my front door) as the Arctic Willow planted beside my driveway captured my attention and I paused to peer more closely:

All of its leaves do not bud out at the same time.  Look at the photo, taken yesterday, and notice that the top-most tips of each branch still look like barren sticks.  A few weeks ago, the leaves began budding at the base.  Next, they budded out in the innermost center of the plant.  Gradually, they've worked their way out and up.  I haven't researched the ecology/physiology of the plant, but it appears to me that the leaf-producing nutrients must work their way up from the roots.  As each section of stem sucks up nutrient-rich water, saturating it at a high enough level, the leaves bud.  I bet my friend Far Side of Fifty has a name for this phenomenon. (She went to school to learn horticulture.)

I bet God has a name for it, too.  But I don't think the name matters as much as the concept.  The concept is that God doesn't do or fix or adjust everything in our lives all at once.  He builds precept upon precept, a little here, a little there.  (Is 28:10)  There is a time for all things...and it's not time for the whole plant to be leafed out yet.  This concept is to be a source of rest rather than anxiety.  God's pace is perfect.

I do struggle with pace.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with too much to do, or sometimes I feel like not enough is happening or that good things aren't happening fast enough.  I feel stressed, confused, and wonder where God is.  It's not God, or lack of Him, that's the problem, though.  It's me, wrestling instead of being gently attentive, taking myself out of pace with Him.  Me, anticipating ahead of the nutrient-rich water that brings life and energy to the situation.

God's answer?  Be like an Arctic Willow.  The Arctic Willow is really a very patient plant.  It doesn't fret that all the other bushes around it have already finished leafing out and the lilac is even almost ready to bloom, while its still got half-bare branches.  The willow doesn't worry that it's being left behind, unable to keep up, shorter than all the other bushes, or that because of these differences its existence might be considered insignificant.  It just sits in the ground, soberly letting God's blueprint work out at His appointed pace.  The only part of a willow that really actively works is its roots, seeking, growing, and taking in life-giving nutrients.  Beyond that, God's plan just kind of happens to it.

What if we were to focus all our energy on seeking and growing our roots in our Life-giving, nutrition-rich God?  Doesn't He promise that as we became saturated in Him--abide in His Word, His Life-giving Water--our leaves will bud and fruit will blossom, offering sweet, abundant Life to everyone around us?  God will prune, and we'll produce more.  God will fertilize, and our fruit will become sweeter.  God will tend us, and we will be His crowning glory...without even having to work at it!

"Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.  And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."  
--1 John 3:24

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