What if I’m a Really Bad Gardener?

What if I'm a Really Bad Gardener?

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7 ESV)

Our new home has many adorable, you-only-get-this-kind-of-character-with-old-houses type features. One feature I enjoy immensely is the corner sink in the kitchen, it looks out into the front yard/driveway and has two HUGE windowsills where I imagined starting a little herb garden and collecting cheerful flowers. I could just picture myself joyfully (ha!) scrubbing the dishes as my gaze ran dreamily through the vibrant homage to domestic tranquility.

Filled with all the optimism in the world, I purchased some spirited daffodils in sweet little planters and began planting the little herb seeds my father bought for me.

Just two weeks down the road and my windowsills are looking anything but inspirational. They are looking more like an homage to death than domestic tranquility. I am finally calling the daffodils’ unfortunate demise and hoping that the fuzzy moldy looking stuff on the top of my herb garden’s soil will just magically go away.

It turns out I’m not a natural gardener.

It’s not surprising, really. I have never grown anything before, and I didn’t exactly do any research on the best methods for windowsill gardening… I don’t even know if you can sustain daffodils indoors. They just looked adorable, and I thought I would give it a shot. I wasn’t very attentive to my little plants: some days I would forget to water them and they would get all dry and then when I remembered I would flood them with water, hoping to make up for the days I had missed.

Apparently it doesn’t work like that.

When I first began this little project I thought that gardening would surely provide many opportunities for reflecting on the master Gardener in my life–the Savior who plants seeds of faith in his people and then faithfully tends to their growth. I thought I would see illustrations of his loving, but painful pruning and protection. Instead I was given a very obvious illustration of how inferior I am to him and how quickly I forget about the souls I’ve been allowed to help cultivate.

In his grace, the Savior has allowed me to come alongside him in the duties of tending to some flowers in his garden. I have these little children that he’s placed in my care, who require constant attention. Just like my gardening enterprise, however, many of my days as a mother are marked by failure.

I forget that I can’t successfully work the soil of my children’s hearts on my own. My own strength and my own knowledge are painfully inadequate.

I forget that I need outside sources–namely the Word of God and the fellowship of God’s people–to aid me in this endeavor.

I forget the important task assigned to me, some days neglecting to nurture and discipline my children, and then on others flooding them with affection and attention in an effort to make up for it.

I am not a disciplined gardener, and I am certainly not a disciplined mother.

How thankful I am that my children’s spiritual lives are not solely dependent upon me! How thankful I am that their salvation and sanctification are the responsibility of God alone–the only one who can truly penetrate the hard soil of their hearts. And above all, how thankful I am that He is not done with me yet! Every day his Holy Spirit is transforming me from one degree of glory to another.

The same one who is tending the soil of my children’s hearts is tending the soil of my own–creating in me a heart that beats with the steady love and compassion of the Master Gardener, Jesus Christ.

This is the power of the true “miracle grow” in the our lives. It is the power of the gospel, by which we are saved and by which we are sanctified. All glory be to our God!

photo credit: thespyglass via photopin cc

Don’t Assume the Lion Will Spare You

Many of us live under the false notion that we don’t truly need Jesus every day of our lives. Sure, we may not say it out loud or even dare to think it, but our daily lives profess it–our preoccupation with self and the world prove it.

Yes, we love our God and are so thankful for the salvation he has provided for us, but when it comes right down to it, we think very little of him in our daily duties and decisions. We go about our lives as though we’re strong enough to overcome sin and do good in our own strength, or worse yet, we give up the fight completely, content to live our earthly lives in a state little better than an unbeliever.

Why?

Do we think that because we are women we do not need to study the Word of God for ourselves–as if the spirituality of our husbands will simply trickle down onto us?

Do we think that because we are not in ministry, it isn’t necessary to fall to our knees in prayer each morning asking the Lord to guide our footsteps?

Do we think that because we are not yet mothers or because our children have left the nest that we somehow have less of a need to throw ourselves upon the love and mercy of God in each passing moment?

Do we think that we are not “super-spiritual” like others and therefore excused from the daily disciplines of the Christian life–disciplines that would ultimately lead us to look more like the “super-spiritual” people we’ve placed on the pedestals of our minds?

Do we not recognize our desperate need?

Do we think that we are somehow less needy of the fellowship of our triune God than the spiritual giants that have gone before us?

Or is it simply that we don’t believe such fellowship truly matters in the long run–that perhaps the enemy will overlook our souls and let us be?

Oh how we forget that the enemy prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for  someone to devour. And like the the beasts in the Roman arenas long ago, he does not differentiate between man and woman, young and old, married and single, apostle and new convert. He’s ravenous for blood and will take whatever he can get. We–like those brave martyrs of the past–have only one hope when faced with the attacks of the enemy: to cling to our Savior.

When we deny our daily need for Jesus, we deny the war that rages between those he has purchased out of slavery and their old master. We forget that, though the war has been won by our mighty King, there are countless battles that must still be waged before we enter into the glory set before us. Our enemy will not put down his weapons until the day when he is cast into the lake of fire, and so, we must be ever vigilant to take up our swords and armor: preparing for each new engagement.

If we could only see these spiritual realities as God can, how much more would we desire his presence, his wisdom, and his grace? If we could truly comprehend how desperate we are–how unable we are to succeed in our own flesh and might–wouldn’t we find ourselves coming to our Lord for the nourishment we need to survive?

God, make us women who earnestly seek you.

Prepare us for each new battle against the enemy who seeks only to ravage and destroy.

And more than anything else, make us aware of the Lion of Judah who goes before us, whose power and majesty makes the enemy scurry away in fear like a helpless mouse.

Bookmarks 2/26/14

Bookmarks: Relevant Links for Kingdom Women

Quote of the Week:

“I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In His name I can offer eternal life to ay man, woman, or child, who is willing to have it. In His name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam who reads this paper. But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as part and parcel of the gospel. I dare not offer him long life, and increased income, and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ that in the following he shall never meet with a storm.” (J.C. Ryle, Holiness)

Links of the Week:

What Not To Say (And What To Say) To Your Pastor’s Wife: Christine Hoover shares some practical ways you can serve your pastor’s wife through your speech.

The Artistry of Sex Forgotten in the World: Thabiti Anyabwile challenges Christians to recapture the romance of sexuality.

Making Better Disciples: Grace vs. Knowledge: Melissa Deming talks about the need for discipleship to revolve around the gospel.

Fight for Us: Rachel Jankovic reminds us that the way we suffer impacts the rest of the body of Christ.

Support Desiring Virtue: Did you know that by simply clicking on this link, any purchases you make from Amazon.com in the next month will help support Desiring Virtue? I would greatly appreciate this simple token of your support!

photo credit: Craig A Rodway via photopin cc

How Elsa’s “Let it Go” Should Challenge Complementarians

What Elsa's "Let it Go" Can Teach Complimentarians So, let me get a few things out of the way before I go any further:

  1. I know, I know, Frozen has been talked about and talked about. The Gospel Coalition has had its say and with the Oscars quickly approaching there seems to be no respite. I offer this little article in the hopes that it will give you something new to think about: something that hopefully hasn’t already bean said.
  2. Like many, many people, I loved this movie. From the animation to the story line to the beautiful songs, there was much to be praised in Disney’s latest offering. I’m a huge fan of musicals and honestly found myself tearing up at the emotional climax of Elsa’s hit song “Let it Go.”
  3. I try to take a storyline at face value rather than placing my own spiritual, biblical, or personal ideologies on the work. For instance, I did NOT see an anti-homeschooling theme in Disney’s previous hit, Tangled (as some amazingly enough did). I saw an evil kidnapper who wanted to keep her ticket to immortality hidden from the world portrayed as an evil kidnapper who wanted to keep her ticket to immortality hidden from the world–that simple. Perhaps those who felt offended by that story line need to consider whether there’s a good reason they were offended by that storyline. Ahem. My argument below isn’t that Frozen is speaking specifically to complementarians, but rather that the overarching themes can be applied to complementarians.
  4. I am a traditional complementarian. Hopefully, if you read my blog often you are already aware of this. I believe the Bible teaches that men and women were created equally, but differently and that both bear the image of God. I believe that a husband is called to lead his wife as Christ leads and loves the church and that a wife is called to submit to and follow her husband as the church is called to do so to its Savior, Jesus Christ.

Okay. Now that you know where I’m coming from, let me tell you how I think Elsa’s “Let it Go” should challenge complementarians like myself.

This powerful song takes place after Elsa’s powers–which were previously a secret–are made known to her kingdom. Up until this point in the movie, she has tried with every morsel of her being to keep her magical “freezing abilities” (for lack of a better description) to herself. The desire to hide her powers began as a young girl, when she accidentally almost killed her little sister with them. Since that experience as a child, she has chosen to suppress her abilities, and in many ways she suppressed herself. Once she is outed for having magical powers, she runs away to the mountains where she feels free to use her powers and test her limits–which turn out to be very impressive. Of course, what she doesn’t know is that her uncontrolled powers have forced her kingdom into an eternal winter, and thus the story unfolds.

The moment that Elsa “lets go” of her powers, allowing them to flow freely, is a very powerful moment. You can feel the unadulterated joy and relief flowing from her as naturally as the snow flakes do. She’s exploring a part of herself that she had never dared to explore before and it is glorious to watch as she realizes just how powerful she truly is. In epic musical and visual crescendo, Elsa transforms before our very eyes into a confident and self-satisfied woman (complete with a sexy, hip swaying walk).

Now, obviously there is good an bad in this picture. Trevin Wax has already addressed the obvious problem with little girls clinging to this song as a personal manifesto. As with all musicals, the song in the middle of the movie rarely captures the overarching theme of the film. This is when the characters are developing, learning, and growing. The story simply isn’t done yet. And on another note, I was more than a little annoyed that Elsa’s transformation resulted in a more “sexy” version of herself as though self-confidence and sex appeal are intrinsically linked. There is nothing wrong with celebrating her womanhood (on the contrary, this is a very good thing), but showing off more thigh and walking around like Miss America in a bikini contest isn’t the way to do it. This is not what I would want my children to take away from this story.

What I would like for them to think about is how we deal with our talents and abilities, or in other words: how we make the most of them under the authority of God. Most specifically, I would like for them to contemplate how powerful and talented women are and the inherent difficulty we face in learning how to use our abilities within the biblical framework of marriage.

You see, I think it can be very easy for us as complementarian women to fail to use the gifts and passions God has given each of us as unique creations. We become so concerned with fulfilling our good and biblical role of helper to our husbands that we forget that we are also given unique gifts and passions for the betterment of our marriages, families, and churches.

Rather than doing the hard work of seeking to use our specific gifts for the glory of God, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we need to conform to some false, static, one-size-fits-all image of the Proverbs 31 woman. This natural tendency is not only detrimental to us women who can begin to feel trapped–or might I say “frozen”–by our marriages and the biblical role God has called us to in them, but it is also detrimental to our marriages and churches: realms of our lives that are meant to benefit from our unique giftings.

So what can be done about it? Should all women just “let it go,” plunging themselves into their passions and talents no matter the consequences of their actions? No, even the worldly wisdom of Disney’s Frozen shows the inherent faults of uncontrolled abilities. Our actions have consequences–for good and bad. Just as a particular talent may benefit your marriage, family or church, it may also be a huge detriment to them if not controlled and brought under the lordship of Christ.

Our gifts and abilities were given to us for a purpose, but that purpose certainly isn’t meant to subvert or contradict the revealed Word of God. Rather, our talents are meant to be used under the authority of the One who distributed them. We must pursue the difficult task of using them responsibly and biblically for his glory and for other’s good–not for self-fulfillment or self-gratification. Ironically however, it is in using these gifts for others that we do find great satisfaction and fulfillment, because as those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, our greatest joy is seeing him glorified and made much of.

My point in all of this? There is no one-size-fits-all complementarian Christian woman. In many ways we will look similar, but in other ways we will be very, very different. If you are trying to conform into the image of your pastor’s wife or close friend–shaping your marriage, mothering, and service within the church to hers–you may be missing out on the specific ways God is calling you to serve others. We are all given a framework for gender and marriage and family life in the Word of God, but we must seek guidance from that same Word and from the indwelling Holy Spirit as we figure out how our unique giftings are meant to operate within these realms. After all, this is the wisdom that the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 possessed: the ability to use her gifts and resources for the good of others.

Perhaps like Elsa, there is a part of you that has been suppressed because you were afraid that it didn’t fit into the mold of what everyone around you expected. But let us not forget, there is only one whose opinion matters and he cares very deeply about what you do with the gifts he has entrusted to you.

Bookmarks 2/19/13

BookmarksQuote of the Week:

“A marriage without drama does not mean a cold marriage. People always talk about where the spark has gone in your marriage, as though a spark is the ultimate achievement. Well ideally, it has turned into some red hot coals. No drama does not mean no heat. Sparks are not always an indicator of things being alive. Sometimes it is just someone trying to light a damp log with a sparkler.  We should be pursuing in our marriages a kind of deep, unrelenting, steady heat. True love is not showy, it is reliable.” (Rachel Jankovic)

Links of the Week:

Constant Love: The quote above? It’s from this post. Don’t let the fact that this is a “Valentines Day” post keep you from reading on, my married friends. Please read, and think, and implement. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway.

How Union with Christ Defines Us: Luma Simms has written a very helpful post on how the doctrine of union with Christ influences, changes, and empowers us toward godliness on a daily basis.

Crouching at Your Door: Lore Ferguson shares some insightful thoughts on the struggle we face as we walk in grace and at the same time, struggle toward holiness.