We have a bush in our backyard. It's ugly, messy, and totally out of control. It's a hideous thorn in our backsides.
We've cut it back countless times, but we know that to really get rid of it for good, we just have to get in there and tear the hideous beast out by the root.
It's going to be hard. And it's going to be messy. And it's going to take a LOT of sweat, and quite possibly some tears (probably on my part, but not necessarily).
But then it will be gone. Done. Forever.
Do you ever feel like that bush? I have.
I used to feel stumped. Stumped in life, stumped in my faith, stumped in my hopes and dreams. I felt like I was just pruning my life, only for things to just pop right back up again. I was playing on the defense, and could never get into the offense. Just like with that damn bush.
And just like that bush, I needed to take things out by the root.
I love how God's way is so different than the world's way of doing things. The world tells us that we need to learn how to control ourselves better. We need to control our emotions and our reactions. We need to learn to just forgive and let go. We need to prune. But, the root remains. And if the root remains, we just get caught in an exhausting cycle of: Screw up. Feel bad. Get hopeful. Try harder. Screw up. Feel bad. Get hopeful. Try harder... The world says to fix parts of that cycle. God says, "That cycle's crap. Let me heal your heart, gently take out that root, and you can leave the cycle altogether."
The interesting thing is that so often the church tells us the same message as the world. I don't know how many times I have felt guilty, overwhelmed, and clueless as to how to "be more spiritual". SO many times, I've had the best intentions to pray more, read my Bible more, spend more time with God, evangelize more, forgive more. I've even been hard on myself because I want to want those things. Because deep down, I didn't really. I resented those things, because I felt like I could never do them. It was a constant uphill battle. Are you with me?
But God has told me some neat things about that lately.
Have you ever heard the St. Francis of Assisi quote that goes like this: "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."?
I finally get what that means. If I live in the grace, truth, and freedom that Jesus purchased for me on Calvary, I won't ever have to say a word. Not a word. I won't have to wrack my brain about how to tell people how great my God is (did I always really believe that myself?), or pray that God will somehow change their hearts. Why? Because the grace, truth, and freedom that I am experiencing will emanate from me. Literally. And it will draw in others. I won't have to say a word, because not only do I really believe it, I am living it. Being set free is intriguing and attractive.
Worrying about evangelism, while I still have a bush inside of me that needs to be pruned, is about as close an example of "putting the cart before the horse" that I can think of.
The same goes for reading my Bible, having "devotions", and being "spiritual".
You know what God told me about those things? He said, "Don't worry, you'll get there. Let me bring healing to you, and you'll get there." Because you can't be there while you're still exhausting yourself on that cycle. I know. And
God has taken some huge roots out of my life. And wouldn't you know it, I've hopped out of that cycle. I'm not spiritually exhausted like I used to be. I actually like God. I want to pray, because I like spending time with my Dad. I feel free. And it's awesome. I truly believe that's the order God wants things to go. Just like as parents, we don't require as much from our children when they're ill, God doesn't require much from us when we're spiritually ill.
In the Bible, a huge part of Jesus' ministry was healing. Physical healing, as well as emotional healing. He didn't expect people to be in a particularly spiritual place, or even a place of belief. (And actually, it was usually people that didn't know God that he ministered to primarily.) He just said, "let me heal you", and through that, you will know God. Jesus didn't expect people to be having prayer marathons, or to be able to speak in tongues, or to even know God as prerequisites to healing. Those things came as a result of the healing. He dealt with the roots, and all those things just fell into place.
It has been grieving me lately that the church teaches something so opposite of that. I used to believe that version. And I used to feel constantly defeated, and distant from God. I used to think that was because I didn't do enough. But now, I'm starting to like the "Jesus version" much better. Root first, and the rest will follow. That was what his ministry looked like. We certainly aren't always very good about actually doing what Jesus did.
People don't need, or want, a Roman Road, 4 Spriritual laws, or a sinner's prayer. People need healing. People need Jesus. I needed healing. I needed Jesus. I still do. I always will.
And that's the truth that has really set me free.