It seems like it has been season after challenging season for so long now. I feel like I am swimming a marathon, and every now and then God brings me back to the surface for air and a reprieve and a pep talk only to dump me back into tumultuous waters to swim for my life. It’s probably because I think I’ve learned my lesson but as soon as things smooth over I fall right back into my old habits and have to be reminded again.
One thing that is particularly challenging to me is God’s call to be real about who I am and where I am, even in the midst of struggles. It seems easy to talk about once they are behind you, but I fear the “ugly” spilling out in everyday conversation. I think as Christians, growing up in the church, we feel called to live a higher standard, and it seems somehow ungodly to openly fall short. God keeps showing me, though, that when I let them come to the surface, in the light He can heal it and we can deal with it together.
This evening I opened up to Mark 11 and read a story I am familiar with but has always troubled me. Here it is in the Amplified version, “Seeing in the distance a fig tree [covered] with leaves, He went to see if He could find any [fruit] on it [for in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. But when He came up to it, He found nothing but leaves, for the fig season had not yet come. And He said to it, No one ever again shall eat fruit from you. And His disciples were listening [to what He said].” (vs. 12-13). To be honest, this story has always troubled me, but the amplified version helps to clarify by saying that the tree should bear fruit at the same time the leaves appear, but it does not. Basically, the tree had all it needed, but was not useful in the way that it was designed.
Pastor Joe talked about this weekend that when we have significant moment’s we remember (like our wedding day or a special trip), there are “souvenirs” from the journey (like our rings or a Disney sweatshirt); the same should follow with our relationship with Christ. We must experience the cross, not just know about Jesus, and this translates into the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. When our fruit is not in keeping with these, our logo is all wrong; it’s like buying Baylor clothes at Walmart (Baylor holds the rights to their official colors and logo so that you can only buy it from their bookstore – if you go to the Walmart in Waco, they have imitations that look similar, but just don’t add up).
Joyce Meyer says that Jesus cursed the tree because it was a “phony”! The tree was an imposter of a fig tree, looking for all intents and purposes like a tree, but lacking the essential element – the fruit. “If our lives revolve around the church but we have no fruit, we are not living our faith. We can have Christian bumper stickers on our cars, wear Jesus pins, carry our Bibles around…and say ‘Praise the Lord!’…but if we do not have [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control]…we are like the fig tree with leaves but no fruit.”
She goes on to say that “People with spiritual outward appearance but no fruit are hard to get along with and never allow themselves to be inconvenienced by anybody else.” OUCH! I don’t want to be a phony, but I find myself starting to feel the fear of disappointing others or concerns about how I am perceived and struggle again to be real about where I am.
Brothers and sisters I’ll give it to you straight right now – I am a hot mess! God has been working with me through Christian counseling for months now, but I thought I would have it all “together” by now. I still find myself struggling with the same old struggles – mine may look different from yours, but we all are struggling. God just really reminded me that if I am going to work through these things, if I am going to be victorious and bear much fruit, if I am going to walk in the healing that He died for me to experience (yes, He died for more than just a ticket to heaven) – then I must be real about where I am and stop trying to “be” or “act like” what I think I should be, I have to be real about where I am, bring it to the surface and allow God to heal that so that I can bear the fruit that He has for me. It is painful to allow it; it is painful to know that “ugliness” is still in there, and I fear what others might think, but the truth is that if I am only living to please God, then I will be righteous and justified, and the Lord becomes my vindicator.