If the vine reminds me of my utter dependence on Jesus, the gardener reminds me who is really in control. Now, I am not much of a gardener—I tend to neglect my plants until they start looking withered and dry. I lack the patience, the perseverance and the diligence to care for things that seem to be mere decoration to me. Real gardeners, on the other hand, are devoted to the health and productivity of their plants. They spend countless hours pruning, weeding, planting and transplanting, and even if there is nothing to do in the dead of winter, they plan out their gardens. Their desire is to coax out the potential and greatest harvest possible from each of their plants, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Isn’t that a wonderful picture of our Father? Far from being a tyrant who is out to get us or a hard-driving taskmaster, He is patient with each of us. His mind and thoughts are always turned towards us, seeking to develop us to our fullest potential, so that we may yield the greatest harvest for His kingdom. Instead of being against us, He is truly for us. He is on our side!
How well do you know the Father? Not what do you know about the Father. For what I have found is this: How you see Him will greatly affect how you live. If you see Him as a tyrant, you will live in constant fear of Him. If you see Him as a slave driver, you will constantly feel like you will need to be involved in everything possible. I saw Him as a distant parent, one who was remote. Sure, He took care of my needs, but I never could draw close to Him.
Over the past seven years, as I have been on my own wilderness journey, I have found my perception and understanding of Him change. I tend to be more of a Type A personality and thought that He was like that too. If I failed to read my Bible or pray, I was sure that I would get it! I waited in fear and trepidation wondering when the blow would strike, for surely I deserved it.
As I have slowly learned to trust Him through my extended personal retreats, however, my perception of Him began to change as well. I remember the day when I finally realized that He was the Father I always wanted…and it began the slow process of change that has made all the difference in the way I related to Him, heard from Him, and responded to Him.
One of my greatest fears has been that if I followed Him, He was going to test me by making me go through severe health trials, pain or suffering. A few weeks ago, as I had shared in a previous post, I received a letter informing me that there were questionable results on my recent mammogram. This was the kind of news that I dreaded to hear. I still felt fear, but instead of looking at this as a way that God is punishing me, I began to see this as a way that He was going to shape and train me.
As I began to remember the truth about who He was, truth that was discovered through time spent with Him, I began to find myself letting go. I was able to sleep at night and go on with life. I went through additional testing with a peace in my heart. I figured that if God wanted to take me, then He knew what He was doing. If He wanted to leave me here, I also knew that He had work for me to do. Either way, I knew that my life was in the best hands.
As it turns out (and I know some of you may be wondering!), my results turned out to be normal. I praise the Lord for His goodness to me. I know that it could be otherwise. I believe He allowed me to go through this, not as a way to scare me, but to affirm in me that there is work for me to do...and to stop sitting around and do it!
This has been a journey for me. It didn't happen overnight. If you feel discouraged, don't be. Trust in the Lord sometimes grows by simple little acts of faith through time that become a strong confidence and courage. Just like a gardener patiently tends His garden to coax from it its greatest yield, so I believe God patiently tends us. When we trust Him, even in our most painful times, we are in the best hands we can possibly be.