Rain For The Weeds

When Nick and I bought our home, we had a fenced-in back yard for the first time in our married life.  Think of the possibilities! I marvelled.  I thought the paver patio and pathway were so lovely.  I thought a raised bed seemed like a good idea and Nick, being the husband that he is, went to work for me one Saturday morning, building the frame and hauling loads of dirt to fill it.

Spring has this effect on me.  Each spring, I am excited to get outside and clean up my beds, pulling weeds, clearing piles of rotting leaves and edging.  The temperatures are warm and they thaw out my bones.  The sun deposits its energy in me and I can go for hours, or until my back hurts so badly that its time for a shower.  My kids toddle around and play.  It feels like therapy after the long dark winter, and I soak it in.

The problem comes when summer arrives–with it, the punishing hot temperatures.  I have trouble prioritizing my outside tasks when I have inside ones just as important–and I can do those in the air conditioning.

This year, with the primo summer growing conditions we’re having here in south-central PA, some areas of weeds grew to a startling height.  I looked out my kitchen window (a side of the house we rarely visit from the outside) and realized I could see the tip-tops of weeds (and that window is probably eight feet off the ground).  Recently when filling out my to-do list, I simply wrote the word “jungle” under Nick’s column–it was self explanatory.  Around here, weeds are not Nick’s job.  To put it bluntly–he hates gardening.  But when they’re tree-like and I can’t yank them from the ground by grunt force, a sharp tool is required and it lands in Nick’s court.  (He made quick work of it, and even spared my lillies).

The raised bed grew–we hadn’t even gotten around to planting it this year, but it grew anyway–with weeds in creative variety.  Some sprawled out and covered massive areas.  Others stayed in one place but grew deep into the dirt.  Some were actually surprisingly beautiful.  I watched them grow, observing them from my back porch.  I knew the ground in that bed was hard and dry.  While I might successfully pull their tops off, I would have to wait for rain to soften the dirt before I could get them by their roots.  It was neither the day nor the time to stress about them.  So they grew high, filling the bed entirely.

The paver patio and pathway too, because the previous owner laid them improperly, welcome weeds with the slightest encouragement of sunshine.  The moist ground beneath the stones is a literal springboard for so many weeds.  I struggled to keep up, and when the hot summer arrived, I surrendered all together, except a small area close to the house where my conscience continued the fight (but the children!–where will they walk?!) 

Today, whether by random stroke of inspiration, or whatever, I realized it was mild enough outside to weed–and the soil was wet thanks to recent rainfall.  You realize, I wasn’t anxiously watching the clouds.  As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t get the weeds pulled, the snow will kill them and I will try again next year.

But I have guests coming this weekend and the weather forecast seems ideal for grilling out.  But the weeds.  So then I was resigned–just because I could tolerate seeing my own weeds didn’t mean I wanted to welcome friends to the jungle.  I want to be real with my friends, but harboring mosquitoes isn’t exactly hospitality.  So I would try, I decided, this week…I would weed what I could.

But once I got started, I realized how fun it is to pull weeds when they are seated in soft soil.  Big weeds are easy to pull and they span large areas, so the work is rewarding.  It was satisfying to look up and see the huge area of suddenly clear beauty.  Oh!  I forgot that path was this wide!  and I confess, the other thought was I wonder if I can charm Nick into carrying these huge weed piles away for me. (Yes, you’ve just stumbled upon a bone of contention in our marriage.)

The pathway

I walked past the raised bed a few times–you see, I was going to skip it entirely.  (I meant it when I said I have no trouble being real with my friends–so what, they see a mountainous weedy “garden”.  They’ll just feel better about themselves and their own messes.  I consider it a public service.)

But being practical, I realized it would take less than five minutes to clear all those big weeds and then it would be done.  So I went to it and the soil was so drenched that the weeds practically leaped into my arms.  It was (I’m whispering here, ashamed) fun.

Then Aly walked by and Jesus hit me square between the eyes with her question: “Mommy–why are you pulling these weeds?”

I stepped back and looked at the framed garden.  I wasn’t going to plant anything here for the year.  It was nice soil, but I had no plans for it.  But here I was, pulling weeds just to leave the ground bare.  I heard the answer bubble up out of my spirit as He whispered it to me… “I’m clearing the soil so Jesus can plant something here.”

Now, I’m not saying this as a natural thing, where I think I’m going to walk out there tomorrow and my Love will have placed a zucchini plant just for me.  Though I do love zucchini and would accept them in gratin.

But a powerful parallel of love emerged from my weeded garden.  I looked at the rich, fertile ground, dark and clear and ready.  I realized that the weeds had thrived there, and good plants would too.

But last week, when the weeds were firmly rooted and determined in dry ground, no amount of good intentions on my part would have coaxed the roots of those weeds from the dirt.  I might have cropped them off, level with the ground, so that no one could see them.  But they would have regrown.

Hearts are that way, too.  We redeemed, holy ones like to walk around showing people their weeds or discussing them righteously with our friends.  We fall prey to the temptation to diagnose as a physician, prescribing empty religious techniques–like weed killer, they last for a while, leaving death in their wake and ultimately–the weeds return.  Sometimes what we think are weeds, aren’t.

Jesus revealed to me the greatest weed solution of all.  It’s so simple.  When we see weeds, instead of hurrying to pull them out prematurely (so our friends don’t see them), or ignoring them all together because they are rooted so firmly, we simply lean into Him and whisper from our deepest place:  

Jesus, I need rain.

Ironic, isn’t it, that we ask for the very thing that could also encourage the weed to grow?  That’s the popular argument against a loving church, isn’t it–that our love might validate a man’s brokenness?

But it is rain–Love Himself–that liberates.  So we ask for love to loosen the heart.  And then, maybe the weeds grow a little longer.  Maybe a flood falls from the foot of the throne at the moment of your prayer.  But we, His precious ones, position ourselves for our Gardener, The Physician, to soften the places within ourselves–and within those around us whose weeds we see–with His rain, His love, in the perfect amount, at the proper time.  We act as His rain, loving His imperfect people, persistently until the soil permeates and soaks through the cracked places in their hearts.  We provide an environment of rain that, over time, prepares them for freedom.

We are imperfect people working towards Christ’s perfection–by definition, we all have weeds.  It’s time to stop panicking when we see them, time to stop feeling an immediate personal mandate to clear their impurities.  Our strategy for drive-by deliverance is being overwritten by a echoing call from heaven–to love.  And then, when we see the soil is soft, when we see their hearts have been affected by love in such a way that they are willing, then, gently, in love, and by the roots, we pull.  One at a time, testing to see if they are ready to yield.  If not, we are patient–because He is patient.

It becomes an act of love, to gently liberate, deliberately, carefully.  One at a time.  We become freedom dealers, surrendering to relationships that last longer than a coffee date, go deeper than a movie night.  We invest our hearts into people, knowing that WE are the rain falling from the skies over a generation of thirsty, hard hearts.  His hands tenderly releasing people from roots of painful conditions.

In this way, as they willingly eject their weeds, they receive a readiness to accept good seeds, and their destiny of fruitfulness is propelled forward.  New, good things are planted.  Life begets life and they, themselves, become eager freedom dealers.  It will become a kingdom wave that will take over the world.  It contains a power that will accomplish what governments and world systems never will.

Today, I’m praying for rain for the weeds.  I’m becoming rain for the hearts overcome by weeds.  Ironically, the rain will set them free.


Healing: A Prayer

“Holy Spirit” (Bryan & Katie Torwalt) from Lucas Barrientes on Vimeo.

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here.
Especially while my children are hitting themselves with metal Thomas trains and squealing at each other.  They have yo-yoed from happy shrieks to raging war about three times this morning so far and if the pendulum should swing again, and Your Presence not be with me, I might assign my sweet, grumpy toddlers to manual labor.

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.

I know You’re with me, but I need You to swell up here in my spirit.  I feel fragile and alone.

Your Glory, God, is what my heart longs for.

Nothing short of Your Authentic Fingerprint will be enough for me.  I see you everywhere, in so many of my daily experiences.  But the memories of experiences fade.  I need your invasion, in a way my heart understands.

When I am with you, Your purity reveals so many places in me that I didn’t know I yielded to:  hopelessness, depression, loneliness, inferiority, loss of vision, numbness.  I love Your way of bringing revelation without a single ounce of guilt or condemnation.  I am completely accepted in You.  I don’t need to run anywhere else for help, for prayer, for strength, even for validation or vindication.  You Are Those Things.  I am pressing in to You, stubborn, hungry and without any alternative option.  Restoration and hope are my DNA, because they are Yours.

To be overcome by your Presence, Lord.

Thank you for being jealous of me, that every aching part of me is exposed and transformed into strength and health–because there’s not an inch of me that You will leave alone, to remain unredeemed.  I know you are my healer–it is in Your very nature.  I don’t even have to ask for it; it is a natural bi-product of our intimacy.  I want only a clearer picture of Your heart for me–it is You, my love–that will reset my heart and mind simply by being there with me.  Topical treatments will be temporary.  I am pursuing the ongoing and complete transformation of Your Spirit.

Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness… 

Our togetherness—You and me–sends a pulse into the atmosphere–an aroma, a shout, a call, a beacon–that no profoundly worded, eloquently-delivered prayer of deliverance or battle ever could.  The chemistry of the world around me is completely altered.  The rules of the game change.

I am tuning out every remaining voice, every memorized tactic and every worn-out cliche.  I will be faithful to be still, here in You, as You work out my healing, as you transform my broken places into treasure.  You are singing songs of sleep over my panicky, anxious soul (what bliss to walk out of that constant weakness), and the thunder of heaven is awakening my spirit.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here…

Peace be still, my troubled soul.  Jesus is here.  Be at rest, be in His worship.  The work He started will be completed.


The Void of No Goodbye

My heart hurts.  It seems like my heart aches most of the time.  Before I had children, before I fought for my marriage, before I really experienced some of the darkness of the world, my heart didn’t feel so much.  I grimace now, when I reflect on the past.  I am embarrassed by my judgments and criticisms.  I ache over those I have lost because I failed to be transparent and vulnerable with them.  Life has served me well with its troubles and pain; it is largely because of them that I learned to love people.

But I wish life lessons didn’t cost so much.

My heart is troublesome to me now.  I am still resilient and strong, but my heart aches so much these days.  Nick was watching a scene from Book of Eli recently and I wasn’t really paying attention.  But even in my distracted activities, my spirit heard the screams of a woman about to be raped by two villains and I nearly had a panic attack.  I wasn’t enthralled by the drama as I once would have been.  I didn’t get caught up in the storyline.  It didn’t matter that soon the hero would sweep in and save the day.  My spirit rose up and burned in pain because the fictional soundtrack sincerely communicated the heart of a woman was being abused.  There seemed to be no defender for her, and I literally curled up in a ball.  Physically, my body responded to my sudden panic.  I closed my eyes and covered my ears like a small child, trying to shut it out.  I tried to tell Nick to fast forward but the words came out slurred and choppy and he couldn’t understand.  Everything in me was shutting out and shutting down. It seems love has broken the crust away from me.  Ideally, this was what I might have asked for—that God would break me open.  I didn’t know I relied on that crusty shell so much, to filter my spirit from input better ignored.

I am hurting today, again.  I am aching—once again with a burden I could once have filtered away, labeled and stored, quite conveniently.  But this time, the ache is a hole that someone left when they left me.

I wish people would say goodbye.

I realize with my adult mind that people move on; it is a fact of life, and that any mature, logical mind must adapt.   Nick and I have had difficult transitions in life; we have learned that it takes great courage to say goodbye.  It is far easier to leave, in the stillness of the night, or through a casual fade, then it is to cleanly adjourn to a new course.  I will always remember the day Nick drove to Leesburg, Virginia to say goodbye to someone we deeply respected.  He texted me in panic from their home, nervous and intimidated.  I pray-texted back, begging God to honor our desire to be people of character.  We were desperate for God to give Nick an opening.  Within ten minutes, Nick had not only had a full-on miraculous conversation concerning our departure, but also a cash gift of blessing.

Goodbye is difficult—sometimes because we don’t know it’s goodbye until we’re gone.  Goodbye requires an explanation, which is easier not to give.  Goodbye requires confrontation, which makes us vulnerable.  It demonstrates respect, which is humbling.  Goodbye is difficult but necessary.  Life is full of changed courses and new directions.

But in recent months, several people who I love have simply faded away in the passing of life.  People who are my friends.   People whom I was falling in love with.  People whom I was beginning to reveal myself to, build relationships with.  People who said “let’s have a coffee date soon” or “we want to have dinner with you guys” but their invitations never extended beyond the hypothetical.

Suddenly, they are gone and I hardly know how to ask what happened.  I don’t know if they changed or if I offended them.  I don’t know if I wasn’t friend enough, spiritual enough, loving enough, interesting enough.  I wonder if I am just another local bumpkin that was easily discarded in pursuit of greater destiny.  I find myself wanting to invite conversation but I worry that I’m missing the coded message to keep my distance.

You know when you pull a plant from the ground, like a tree, and a crater remains where the roots once sank deep?  I have a crater in my heart like that for each of these people.  I am starting to feel like Swiss cheese.  I have real estate within me that is in limbo—do these people still desire to have relationship with me, or should I fill in the holes and plant anew?

They didn’t say goodbye and because I love them more than I love myself, I don’t know whether to respect the distance or to cross the chasm in pursuit of the answers my heart is aching for.  It would be easier if the defensive crust on my heart remained—for then, I could simply be angry that I was easily discarded.  Or I could be arrogantly skeptical about their undefined direction.  I could be judgmental about the weakness they demonstrated when they left without goodbye.  But I do not seek to protect myself—my heart’s deepest craving is restoration.  I don’t care that they’re flawed—as Paul admitted, I am chief of the flawed.  Their flaws only attract me closer.  It is what endeared me to them in the beginning.

How is it, that someone so loved, someone with so many wonderful companions, someone so blessed, can still feel the chasms they left behind?  I am so loved with such affection.  And yet my heart aches for a few.  This realization is startling!  My mind is drawn to the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 in search of the one that was lost.

Suddenly it makes sense.  In the realization that my heart is becoming more and more like my Father’s, of course I miss them.  It is because no one can fill the place they were designed for.  Each person is so special, so unique, so wonderfully made.  I miss them because we are a Body—for all our divisions, for all our diverse perspectives and viewpoints, we are ultimately one unit.  I miss them because I am designed to.   I miss them because I must.

Unity is a tough thing.  We like to pretend that it’s a two-way street, like ballroom dancing or making a baby.  But unity is a state of heart.  It is the refusal to be separated.  It is a stubborn loyalty to the man over the matter.   It is an absolute decision.

I will choose unity.  Even though there was no goodbye, no explanation, I still get to choose.  I choose unity.  I choose to love, to be of one mind, to be of the Body.  I choose to fully embrace them as Brother, as Sister, as heartbeat.  I choose to stay vulnerable to my need of them.  And if that means I ache, if that means a lifetime sentence to being confused as to where they went, that’s okay.  I am not my own.  I will surrender to missing them—so that in all things, my heart is fully invested in their success, in their fulfillment, in their encouragement.  Like Jesus, I will love without demanding.

So because I choose, because He lives dynamically in me, I can forgive the non-goodbye.  I will let love fill in the places that feel abandoned, the relationships that feel discarded.

To a heart filled with love, there is no goodbye.  Perhaps I’m a late comer to this lesson.

Perhaps the reason they didn’t say goodbye is because in the Kingdom, goodbye does not exist.