Thorns - I've got them.
This week has been one of exposure. Every Christian who truly loves Jesus knows it or has known it or probably will soon. It's been a week where my sins have so strongly shown themselves. I've said words that showed my sin to myself, I've been called out on sins, and I've simply seen actions that aren't wholesome.
It takes a lot for a flower to bloom. I'm definitely no horticulturist but I know some basics. Gotta be planted and watered. Over time a bush will grown and over time the flowers come. Before the flowers arrive there are seasons of sunshine and seasons of rain. Seasons of waiting and longing and seasons of anticipation. The flowers arrive and stay for a while and then that season also ends. Suddenly it all repeats itself again. Slowly but surely.
Unfortunately for all of us, many flowers also arrive with thorns. Roses, one of the world's most beautiful flowers (if you ask me, and apparently everybody else around V-tines day), are covered in thorns. Covered is the wrong word, but dang - have you ever grabbed a rose and not been poked by the thorn?
As I lie in bed just now, awake early because of going to sleep early, I felt and feel a few things:
Sorrow - That I still struggle so vastly in my sin - the sins exposed this week seem to elementary to me. They are ones that I wish I'd been able to deal with (and feel I should have been able to deal with) years ago; the ones that I thought I had worked through. I guess I had simply covered them with a nice mat and hoped for dear life that a breeze wouldn't expose them. Breezes always come.
Aware of grace - This part has been lacking for me most of the week, but as I lay in bed, and a lot more so now as I contemplate and type, I can feel Jesus with me. I know the Spirit of the Lord is always with me, exposing sin while still providing wisdom and teaching. His grace (Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. - (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)) covers a multitude of sins and His ability to help me is above and beyond all of my understanding.
Desire for purity - Sin is yucky. It's awful. It creeps around in my life, always read to jump out at the most inconvenient (aka any) time. Sins are awful because they are a choice; a choice I make to have these attitudes, to feel these emotions, and to do these things. This week I find myself often whispering, "my spirit is willing but my flesh is so weak". I love the Lord, I love Jesus, I love the Spirit, and that love covers a multitude of sins (as I already wrote)- not because of anything I do, but because of Jesus. The cross allows me to repent and be saved.
Tiredness - My most common prayer to the Lord over the past four months has been, "I'm tired". I've been so exhausted by the different things that have happened and the things that have occurred for others in my life. It's felt like a lot of people struggled. I've spent much of my time not as joyful as normal. Yet the joy of the Lord IS MY STRENGTH! I was watching a show yesterday, and the main character, who was struggling with feeling burdened, commented to another character on her feeling tired. I understood her emotions because she looked, sounded, and felt like I've felt for months. I can feel Jesus beckoning me to the well where He will provide living water for my soul. Only He refreshes my soul. I am thankful that I don't have to stay tired - the Lord will provide. (A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:7-15 ESV))
Physically in this moment, emotionally in this moment, and spiritually in this moment, I am tired. I'm exhausted. I'm done. Jesus isn't done. He's pruning me and taking away those thorns and pretty soon He's going to make me a flower. I won't be perfect until Jesus comes back to Earth and brings His believers home, but until then I'll rest in the fact that He's always working on me. (Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV))
Yet now I am filled with joy because I called upon the Lord and He answered me. He did not turn away His ear. He turned to me and forgave me of all my sin.
I went to the ESV website and typed in flower. These verses either shower up immediately, or through cross-references of different verses. The Lord is faithful.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
. . . Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
. . . The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
(Psalm 37:23-24, 27-28, 39-40 ESV)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. . . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:5-10, 16-17 ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:2-4, 12-17 ESV)
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
(Psalm 103:13-18 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. . . . As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
(1 Peter 1:3-9, 14-19 ESV)
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:11-14 ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:1-8, 37-39 ESV)
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
(Psalm 25:8-10 ESV)