I feel it staring at me every time I walk past. As I open my front door and come home again, there it is taunting me, nagging at my conscience. You need to sort me out. You promised you would. You’ve got to stop pretending I’m a sight to the eyes…. you know I’m an eyesore! This weed is the nagging of my conscience, the reminder of my procrastination and my deep rooted (pun most certainly intended) frustration and dislike of gardening.
Today was the first day of the school holidays and I took advantage of bleary eyed exhausted children to tackle a whole load of jobs, cleaning the car, scrubbing the kitchen, sorting socks. But as I sit down to write this, the monstrosity of the weed in the front garden still needs attending. It’s not that I haven’t made the first attempt, just that the results of that half hearted, marigold gloves and body weight alone attack affirmed to me that the job would most certainly require effort, time, and tools.
I know the effect will be better, a prettier vista for me and the neighbours, be of benefit to the soil, but I’m also painfully aware how uncomfortable it will be for me.
Until I do it, my conscience is pricked. I’m not feeling peaceful. When I do uproot it, there will be gritted teeth, frustration, and resistance.
The pathway to peace will not be smooth. It will feel everything but peaceful.
I could turn my eye every time I walk past my front garden. I could gloss over the mess and chaos but it would never clear, uproot, or bring peace to my nagging conscience.
The pathway to peace is not so peaceful and God’s work in our hearts, the uprooting of those stubborn weeds, thorns and briers in our hearts are often not half hearted, quick painless work.
The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the establishment of his peace, is not a smooth superimposing of a veneer of calm onto a chaotic and messy situation.
It can require clearing, cultivating of the land, uprooting and de-weeding before the re-cultivating of the soil of our hearts can allow a sowing of righteousness and growth of fruitful crop. Part of the reason I’m so resistant to clearing the weed is I know it won’t be the last time it’s required of me. New weeds grow and the land needs constant attention, care, weeds uprooted and soil kept as healthy earth for beautiful plants to grow. The work of the Spirit in our hearts is graciously constant, persistant.
This advent we celebrate our Heavenly Father’s sending of his Son, the gift of the Messiah, the beloved servant, the chosen one of the Lord who he promised through Isaiah, the One who is our Prince of Peace. Jesus came to rule and reign in true perfect righteousness and peace, to restore and establish peaceful relationship between God and Man. The Prince of Peace came to liberate our hearts from the corruption and enslavement of sin, by taking our sin, and giving to us, clothing us with his perfect righteousness. He came to bring captive imprisoned hearts to peaceful freedom and liberation. But his mercy continues and His work and His heart for us led Him to send us His Spirit, to guard, protect and work in our hearts passionately, relentlessly rooting out all the stubborn resistance to his peace, all the chaotic compulsion to our old lives.
The pathway to peace is far from peaceful.
Our marriages that may require painful conversations and uncomfortable admission of hurt caused, awkward and unsettling honest evaluation and painstaking conscious change of speech, action and thought. Striving for and from self will uprooted and relaced with spirit led sacrifice and surrender.
Thorns of pride that require the needed digging of self examination and heart searching, the necessary words of honesty from friends and family stinging like anti weed killer, but working to unearth and soften those deep entrenched roots of our stubbornness.
Or maybe those prickly weeds in our hearts may be walls of self defence we’ve built up over time. A guardedness towards others, an arm’s length approach to church family, a quiet or tight lipped fear of sharing our struggles, fears, or desires with others. Fear of rejection, condescension or being accountable to enact those desires, rid those fears. Safer to deal, to quietly get on and self preserve, self sustain. Seeming temporary peace has yielded a harvest of thorns that entangle. True quietness, trust, peace is the promise of our gracious God. It may take the work of his Spirit, may make us feel uncomfortably exposed as every moment of sharing uproots a thorn of self preservation, every vulnerable offering of conversation over church coffee is a scream of pain wanting to get home, every ‘I need’ or ‘me too’ spoken through gritted teeth. But each moment a re cultivating of the soil for the sowing of righteousness, quietness and trust. To yield a fruit of the Spirit rather than self. To grow in knowledge and worshipful, reverent, fear of the Lord instead of isolated self affirmation and a life of being afraid.
The peace God brings to our hearts requires painful sifting, uprooting of weeds, decluttering and clearing of waste and pollutants from the soil of our hearts. The pathway to peace is not always peaceful, but our Prince of Peace has come, and he has not left us.
If I were a faithful, knowlegable, consistent, patient gardener, my front garden would be a beautiful sight to my neighbours and a credit to the work of my hands. As it stands, it is a weed filled true representation of my negligence.
Praise our Prince in Peace, who is working in us and for us by His Spirit to make of us a beautiful display of glory and righteousness, to make of us a vision of quietness and trust in Christ alone to the glory of God and as a witness to the world. Our Prince of Peace came for us, died for us and ascended for us, sending us His Spirit to keep the soil of our hearts yielding that peaceful fruit of righteousness until the day he welcomes us to an eternity of delighting in him, our hearts perfectly abiding and living in peace with Him forevermore. To an eternity perfectly bearing his righteousness forevermore, a beautiful sight to others, and even more wonderfully, beautiful to our perfectly righteous Prince of Peace.