Fri., Aug. 24, 2018
John 3:8 – Only God’s Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.
We have had a warm summer in Wisconsin this year. Because of this, the flowers on our front porch have literally exploded. The coleus, the angel-winged begonias, the sweet potato vines; they have all flourished extremely well and have looked beautiful these last number of weeks.
They are located such that when it rains, they are protected. This has kept them looking lovely but requires they be watered. Nearly every day, I take a few minutes and bring these flowers the gift of water. These minutes are like a little oasis in my day. I stop what I am doing, fill a pitcher several times and douse the flowers with life-giving water.
If I miss a day or it has been warm and humid throughout the day and I didn’t water them first thing in the morning, the leaves wilt and show a little distress. Most often, just a little water and they are quickly revived.
Yet, nearly every day, there are leaves that no longer look beautiful. Especially on the vines, the leaves wither and die. Or yellow and age. As I water, I remove these less-than-ideal leaves. No amount of water will bring these leaves back to their glory. For the flowering plants, eventually the flowers run their life cycle and no longer look as gorgeous as new little flowers bursting to life.
This is part of the life cycle of these plants. Old leaves and flowers die so new ones can come to life. During the daily watering, I also end up with a handful or two of leaves and/or flowers that are removed to make room for new shoots of life.
Are not our spiritual lives much the same? Sometimes, parts of our souls feel thirsty, maybe even parched. When this happens, do we find ways to water our souls? Do we find moments to be with God, replenish our struggling soul and find new life? Or do we simply wither away, not asking the Spirit to blow into us with a wind that gives us hope and new life?
Our failing leaves and flowers maybe some struggle we are going through. Or disappointment with God or other people. Or some hidden sin our lives that we haven’t truly dealt with. Maybe we even try to keep up an external façade in which we look just the same on the outside. Yet, there is something that slowly sucks life out of us and discolors our view of God and ourselves.
Recently, I was speaking with a woman who is feeling a little overwhelmed with life. This spring, she lost an adult child. This, along with other events in her life, lead her to admit that she feels God has given her almost more than she can handle these days. She’d prefer a little less withering in her life these. She’s ready for some new life.
In the moments we were speaking, I felt totally inadequate with a proper response. Basically, all I could do was listen and agree that often, life isn’t fair. One of the more challenging aspects of Christian faith is “why.” Why doesn’t God prevent some things from happening? Why do we feel pruned in our lives and some other person, who may not feel connected with God, slides by with seemingly little pruning? Identifying ourselves as Christian does not mean a shroud of “no bad things will happen to me” will cover our lives. Faith in Christ does not work this way.
Later, I saw a sign in our house that was given to me a few years ago. I wished I would have been able to say these words to this struggling woman:
God doesn’t give us what we can handle. He helps us handle what we have been given.
Disappointment and feeling let down are part of the Christian journey. When this happens, we may be like those dying and discolored leaves and flowers I pluck off my beautiful plants each day. There are still plenty of beautiful and vibrant leaves. I remove the challenged leaves so water and light can concentrate on the best leaves of the plants. This brings forth new life.
No one looks relishes the discoloration in our lives that can pull us away from God and other relationships. Not enough water for our souls is not long-term sustainable. I pray that we can see these dying leaves in our lives as also opportunities for new life. New life that would not happen without some disappointment and heartache. New life that requires something else dying in our lives, as difficult as this may be. New life that comes from the Spirit if we let the Spirit blow into our lives.
As a new day dawns, soon I will fill a water pitcher and begin the daily ritual of bringing water to the plants on our porch. Along with watering, I will also find a handful or two of leaves and flowers past their prime. I will celebrate what they were and be encouraged. New life is sprouting.
For new life, I am grateful.
Holy Spirit – please blow some new life into our lives today. Remind us that even when pruning and discoloration happens in our lives, we aren’t alone. You are with us and ready to help us handle what we have been given. May we find new life in our Spirit today. Amen.
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