My flower bed has a story to tell. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Huh? You want me to read a story about plants telling a story?” Wait, please don’t stop reading. Work with me here as I share an analogy that God revealed to me.
I have a 25 year old flower bed in my front yard. Mainly azaleas. It doesn’t belong in a gardening magazine; it just hangs out in front of my average home. I am definitely not a work-in-the-yard-dig-in-the-dirt kind of girl, so the flower bed fends for itself most of the time and still manages to look pretty when the azaleas bloom. 🙂
The azaleas had not been cut back in quite a while so last year I had someone work on them. They did a great job. The finished product was all trimmed and manicured so that the flower bed looked neat and tidy and better than it had looked in years. But I began to notice something almost immediately: The weeds! The flower bed had been inhabited by various vines and such for a very long time. When the azaleas were up and out and over and under and every which way, these weeds peeked out ever so often and I would cut them back just enough so that they were no longer visible. This remedy was now useless because the wild things were prevalent and invading and on a mission to rule. They didn’t fit in with the new nice shape of the azaleas at all. I swear they were rebelling by growing back in time-lapse photography speed.
See, here’s the deal. When the plants were all over the place, the ugly wild growth could hide. It was just as present, but not as “in your face”. It could be pretty easily ignored much of the time. And give it a slight trim every once in a while and all was well. Or all looked well, which made everything alright. Or so I thought. The old out of sight, out of mind adage at it’s best.
Right after this nice trimming, what was there all along suddenly had a much smaller hiding place, and what was hidden before was now blatantly obvious just about every other day. Wow. And I figured out something that I already knew, but that knowledge was now greatly magnified. This truth hit home: The closer I get, the more I look, the more I see.
So what’s the analogy here? The nicely trimmed flower bed and my discovery of the over indulgent weeds mirror this time in my life. God is showing me so much about me. And He is working alongside me. This is a time where God is very busy pruning me. He is pulling and cutting and removing as I unearth all manner of ugly bad stuff I had buried or put away in the back of a high dusty shelf long forgotten, but still there and still wreaking havoc. He is also trimming and shaping what remains to make it more healthy and happy. I am pretty much a complete overhaul project. This is a time of really, truly seeing for the first time, listening, waking up, recognizing, lamenting, and longing to change. And I realize through all of this that I am learning and growing. To grow, I must allow God to stretch me. So I find myself stretching. And stretching. And stretching. Did I say stretching? 🙂
This time of self realization and evaluation has been, and continues to be, tough. And it’s hard when I see up close what needs to be overhauled: Pretty much everything! God’s pruning is painful, but I know it is necessary. Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by all the overgrown ugliness that I have allowed to inhabit my life for so many years. The whole mess is just huge! But as I continue to lay myself open before Him and He continues to work away, (ouch) He will occasionally show me the stack of what has been removed. He will point to it and say: “See that stack? You are making progress!” Slow, gradual progress, evidenced by a growing stack of beauty. Yes, that’s right, ugly weeds and just plain chaotic overgrown-ness are beautiful. Because this is a part of my story and evidence of my progress. It is a reminder of where I used to be, but no more. It is a marker that says: “You were here, but you’ve made the hard decision not to stay here. Look at how far you have come!”
Coming face to face with what lives in the ugly bad dark and unhealthy hiding places of my life is difficult at best, and purposely digging into all these hiding places is painful and scary. But with each step, I move toward freedom. And with each step, more is found and more is brought to light and removed, and more ugliness is added to my stack of beauty. Ugliness becomes beauty when it is defeated by His power. God continues to lovingly touch up and gradually transform His work of art to look, and be, more like Him. I am one of many pieces of supernatural art created by the Master artist in various phases of completion; works in progress. Flashes of brilliant yet soft and beckoning light that can illuminate the whole world with His power and His love.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil 1:6 NLT