The Best Time to Plant a Tree (#565)
As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today. If you didn't then, there's no time like the present. Don't we all wish we'd given greater attention to God's working in us in years past and live more freely in the fruit of it today? We can't do anything about the past, but we can lean more deeply into him today and let his work have freer reign in us for days to come. Through listener emails and questions Wayne and Brad discuss the ongoing joy of finding our way into God's reality and how we encourage others, including our children, into that same life of transformation. In the course of the conversation they talk about how important it is to be honest in the moment with our hungers and struggles, how our mind, will, and emotions play into this process, and how we cooperate with his working without getting trapped into trying to earn it through religious works.
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I thought of a few things as I listened to this podcast…
I first heard years ago, if you think you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, you haven’t. The only unpardonable sin is unbelief.
Sometimes, denial is necessary. It can be a protective mechanism. To break someone else’s denial is the work of the devil.
Prayer is talking to God. Mediation is listening to God. Working together it creates a conversation. The only difference is, as opposed to human conversation, I may not hear a response right away. Sometimes it is a thought, other times it is revealed to me through another person or situation.
I loved the end of the podcast, especially, when you guys talked about people having a mix of qualities, not all good or all bad. I have to keep that in mind when I am having difficulty accepting a person for who they are or have become, remembering what endeared me to them in the first place.
I replayed the ending of this podcast several times to soak in what you said, “relationship is always better than I’m evaluating a litmus test, and decided they fall on the negative side – you don’t do that to someone you love…” This statement hit me in the gut, because I have done this many times to people; and decided they fell short of what they needed to do or be for me to be in relationship with them.
My motives weren’t to try and be a pompous arrogant jerk – although that is what I looked like. Rather, it was out of deep shame and fear that the other person would hurt me, leave me…, therefore, I needed to be discerning of the “wolves” who were going to devour me. So, i passed people through my screening test so I could weed out those I though were threats. Sadly, I deemed practically everyone as a threat – and I suppose we (myself included) are all threats to hurt people…
However, in doing this I buried myself in a casket of isolation, self-sabotaging good relationships, consequently, pushing people away and experiencing the very thing I did not want – more abandonment and isolation. Oh how I wish I could go back 25 years and plant a new tree!!!! But I can’t. So, I try to plant new seeds; but I often wonder if it is too late (I will be 46 in a few weeks)…
Never too late, Jim. 46 is young! Imagine the lives you could touch in your remaining years as you continue to let him free your heart of all that distorts it. It may be as slow-growing as a tree sometimes, but the shade it provides even for a few at the outset, and even more as the branches spread. Keep growing, Bro! The other options are not great! 🙂
I was gonna say also, if its too late for you Jim, its too late for me as well, as I will be 46 in a few months as well, with few good relationships.
For me it was an issue of unworthiness, I wasn’t deserving of good relationships because of the family I came from, with all its dysfunction and shame. I somehow determined I wasn’t ‘good enough’ , so I settled for the lowest common denominator. And then I wondered why I was miserable and longing most of the time.
Its taken me years to set new boundaries in those relationships, not necessarily pushing people away, but allowing them to come to me, instead of me always going to them. I found that most never came. So I wait. And in the meantime, I work on the two relationships with the people I am with most of the time: myself, and Jesus. I’m learning to be my own best friend, so I can be a better friend to others. No, people aren’t flocking to my door as a result, mostly its a reluctance/shyness on my part. I, like you Jim, wanted to keep the threats at bay. Did you ever think Jim that maybe some of those relationships were actually threats, that had you stayed/pursued worse things may have happened? The grass does seem greener, but not always.
I agree with Wayne. Hang in there. I am.
I know the other options aren’t great. Life is just risky, and if I want to experience life with others, I must walk into the risk. The other options are to hide out the rest of my life with luxuries and escapes that numb me, or continue to grow cold behind my self-protective walls. As Mack wanted in the Shack movie trailer, “you want the promise of a pain free life….but there isn’t one.” There just isn’t!
I swear sometimes I don’t understand why were here if the only promise that seems really real is “in this world you will have tribulation;” but experiencing the love of Father seems soooo much more elusive and intangible. If and when things change in my life i will share it, but not yet… I am probably impatient with the slow-growing tree pace, and need to learn to live in the question more than the answer…or something like that. Just yesterday I heard a song by Trevor Hall called, “You Can’t Rush Your Healing.” I think I will listen to it on repeat for as long as I need to. You can find it on YouTube if you want to give it a listen.
Thanks for sharing Ron. It is good to hear other people’s stories!!! Sure, I have considered it, Ron. But the lens I looked through to try and know was through FEAR, so I don’t know anymore. I am trying to not analyze people as much and learn to let them be and hopefully find a harmony with the Spirit that moves me as needed…
Your welcome, Jim. Did you know what FEAR stands for?
Thought I’d pass that along. Makes perfect sense to me.
I really wonder if we sometimes if we are going about this all wrong. In reading some of the comments, I get a sense that there is an ongoing need to “get it right”. Maybe I am reading that wrong.
Of course it would be really helpful if everyone was on board with our need to get it right. But somehow people don’t cooperate and our best laid plans or our own perfection get waylaid. And just when we think we might be “getting it” and “understand what God’s will is” or truth is for our lives, something comes along and screws it all up.
I look back at the last number of years and see places where I went: “Aha, this is it. This is the secret for getting it right.” But then I came to realize it was not. Time and again it happened, and I wondered if there was not a place of being at least a bit more perfect. What I learned is that Jesus is the perfect one and I am a long way from being perfect or ever being perfect, at least in my definition of perfection.
Initially this really bothered and discouraged me. I mean, were we not to become like Jesus? But slowly I began to realize this was the point of understanding that I needed to come to: My utter dependence on his perfection. That anything that was good in my life was a direct result of His influence in my life and not anything to do with my effort.
Even the concept of healing is somewhat distorted in our thinking. We think healing means we will be made 100% right and perfect in our behaviour and thinking, and that we walk along in certain areas of our lives without problems. But when we don’t get that, we become discouraged. This is because our expectation of healing was false to begin with and self centred. I began a “healing journey” at 40 thinking that I was going to solve my problems, and instead discovered that Jesus was the sufficient one in spite of my problems. Sure some things have “improved” in my life but so much has not. I still wrestle.
We are perfect in Christ, but we are not perfect in our flesh, and until we are transformed at His return, we live with the constant challenge of the flesh at war with the Spirit. We should not be surprised when we find we do the things we do not want to do, and the things we want to do, we do not do – just as Paul says. The flesh is against God. Our souls chooses either to reflect the flesh or the Spirit. This is constant challenge. And it does not help that we have a long history of filters and coping mechanisms that are our default settings, well established when we were very young. We have an enemy that is out to destroy us and a world that is not for us. And then we wonder why life is such a struggle. It’s enough to overwhelm us.
So, let us hold fast to the hope we possess in the fullness of Christ and not in the hope of our getting it right.
Sorry if this sounded preachy. I am working through a personal journey of walking away from the tyranny of change that has been demanded of me for most of my life, and learning to rest in His ability to work in me to will and to do. (Yes Brad, that is an amazing scripture to meditate on.)
I am learning more about the growing process of freedom. For me that means just because I don’t get it “right” all the time doesn’t negate that I am growing in freedom. A little while ago I experienced a new level in the ability to say “no”. Actually I will just copy and paste from my journal what I wrote about the experience and yes I am aware that my writing, spelling etc. is far from perfect.
So as I was taking a shower this morning I started thinking about my early morning visitor story that I shared with you. And the truth is that someone could look at that story and say you gave into her, here and here and oh what about that place but the truth is that it doesn’t even matter. The reason it doesn’t matter is because what really happened is that I experienced more freedom than I would have in the past and that you were with me. This is the story that matters. Somehow I feel that he doesn’t want me to look back to make sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed. It doesn’t matter what it may look like to someone else. This is what You, are doing in me.
Great stuff John.
I thought of a couple of things as I was reading through your post. The first was something I heard from a nationally prominent pastor/teacher from my area, who stated, ‘We are not sinless, but we sin less.’ I tend to believe that is the work of the Spirit in us, not from ourselves. At the point we take Jesus in, things inevitably change. We are being transformed, whether we are aware of it, or not. Another pastor I used to follow always ended his sermons with, ‘Do you know Jesus? Not, do you know about Jesus, but do you know Him, personally?’ For me, that is the key to everything.
In the 12-Step groups there is a phrase that is used, that we are ‘perfectly imperfect.’ Even after going through the 12 Steps, the directive is to carry the message (of sobriety) to others, which requires us to enter into others’ pain and struggle, as Jesus does with us. We are never finished in this life. We are only finished when we are finished, or, as the 12-Steppers put it, ‘perfectly dead’. Then comes the process of transformation, where we are made perfect by God.
Yep, John, I know of that acronym of FEAR; sounds good and makes sense to me too. But I find that my reasoning ability gets a punch in the face, and muzzled when other parts of my brain get triggered. So when triggered, my reasoning ability is tied up and thrown in the back seat of the car and I become a captive passenger, while other parts of my brain (Limbic sytem, Amygdala,…) take over the driver seat carrying me on a wild adventure I don’t really want to be on. I have done a lot of increasing in knowledge and understanding what happens to me and others. I think I have unknowingly confused cerebral knowledge with living in a more real place of freedom, joy, contentment…. However, my analyzing stuff gave me another bush to hide behind (control). I suppose the knowledge has been useful somehow. But I am more at a place of learning to live in a more vulnerable, transparent, honest….way. Essentially becoming more like a little child.
from my perspective, one of the most damaging teachings of western christianity is that god requires perfection from us…never leads to a god who’s essence is love and always leads us on a cycle of fail-repent-try harder, fail-repent-try harder, ad nauseum. love is the only cure.
Oops, I meant to write Ron, not John.
Great stuff here. As an extrovert it is easy for me to be involved with others. First it was to ‘fix’ them and then it was to love them after my change. I can hear the “But how?” question. Go where people are and volunteer. Kiwanis, Rotary, schools, Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters. Did you know there is an international listening society? Much needed in today’s world. Romans 8 “Quit thinking about yourself! The Spirit sets you free! There are places to go and things to do! “. Even for an old fat white guy……..
Just came across a little scrap of wisdom yesterday:
“Happy is the one who doesn’t condemn what he’s approved.”
Who’d’ve thought that ol’ Paul would say such a thing? But it was from his letter to the Romans–14:22b. And further on in that same letter I found this encouragement: “God gives us perseverance.” (15:5a) Yeah, I’m getting scraps of the Writings but, like the first scrap says, I’m not going to second-guess myself anymore.