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Posts Tagged ‘darkness’

We’ve had a garden for 2 summers now. It’s been a privilege and a blessing, I know not everyone has the space or yard to do it. But I’ve been surprised at what a blessing building a garden truly has been. One of my favorite things to do is walk through it either when getting home from work or when our kids are in bed. I get to see growth each day, see where plants are struggling, and see foreshadowing of the fruit to come. There’s a part I can’t even explain, but it’s been encouraging in my relationship with Jesus.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

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Refreshment

There’s one word that I could use to describe my time (and my wife would agree) in our garden: refreshing. Maybe it’s the piece of wild nature vs. the boring and tame grass lawn. Maybe it’s the patience that is grown in you as you wait and watch. Maybe it’s the promise of reward in the fruit to come.

We’re growing carrots, 2 kinds of lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, 4 kinds of pumpkins, squash, cucumber, and cantaloupe. I’m not a big vegetable eater (I should be) but I love everything we grow. There’s a big difference between what comes out of your own garden versus store-bought. Don’t hear me as one of those extreme organic foodies, though I can appreciate the conviction, my family has to be budget conscious and we’re not opposed to Wal-Mart (though we do not prefer their produce which can be pretty putrid).

I love watching my kids eat fresh lettuce and green beans straight out of the garden to their mouths. They love helping with, and being in our garden as well. I love seeing their amazement at the growth and just the smallest signs of fruit.

Reinforcement

Do you understand photosynthesis? Especially the whole making-trees-and-leaves-and-fruit-out-of-thin-air part? Go blow on that bush. You can’t see it, but the bush will turn your breath into raspberry juice. We could improve on the name. Photosynthesis. I’ve suggested Green Magyk, but no one listens to me. – N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

My kids’ perspective has been teaching me to wonder more as well. Having a garden reinforces just how amazing God is and how ridiculous the concept of evolution is. Seriously, how can something start as this:

and grow to this (and not be done yet):

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Don’t give me Occam’s Razor or some argument about photosynthesis and random mutation. Please. Build a garden and watch it grow and try to not be amazed by it all.

Gardening reinforces that God does the growth but also that He can just as soon end it.

Resilience

A couple of weeks we had a crazy hail storm that lasted for about 5 minutes with golf-ball sized hail. Thankfully, we had just set up tarps to cover our plants only a few days earlier! However, the hail was intense and there were two plants that did not get adequately covered – a pumpkin plant and a cherry tomato that already had a few growing on it. The pumpkin plant in particular had only 2 leaves (out of 20-30) remaining undamaged. It was practically flattened! I wish I had a picture to show you just how crushed it was. My wife and I thought that there was no way the pumpkin plant would survive.

Today it is fully recovered, has plenty of buds, and you could not even tell unless you looked closely that it was hurt. That’s amazing. The cherry tomato plant is struggling on one side but is still growing despite now getting mugged by slugs (beer to the rescue)! Seeing the resilience of a few plants is convicting and encouraging.

There’s hail, tornadoes, frost, heat waves, bugs, darkness and death, but that’s never the full picture of this world that God has made. There is beauty, resilience, yummy fruit, massive thriving pumpkins, grace after the hail, reward from hard work, and it all whispers His name. I’m thinking that’s where the refreshment of my garden ultimately comes from.

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I saw this post from Justin Taylor today and just had to draw more attention to Bob Kauflin’s story of his battle with darkness and depression. I remember being at this conference and hearing what Kauflin shared live, being in tears afterwards. It was definitely something that stuck with me and I have recounted it on more than one occasion to others. The thought that “you don’t feel hopeless enough” is such a powerful and profound application of the gospel and has given me pause many times to ask myself: “Am I hoping in myself here or in my Savior?”

The story was published in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God (pp. 149-151) but you can actually watch or listen to the full Q&A at Desiring God. Please read Bob’s story below or listen to it and let yourself be encouraged that though our sin is terrible, Jesus’ love goes deeper for us than we can imagine. The darkness will not last forever.

I helped plant a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1991. I began to feel increasing anxiety at different times when we first planted the church. Then in January of 1994 my wife and I were at a couple’s house for dinner, and I cracked. My life fell apart. Mentally I had no connection with what I was doing, no connection with the past, no connection with the future. I didn’t know why I existed. These were the thoughts that went through my brain. That began a period of maybe three years where I battled constant hopelessness. I would wake up each morning with this thought: “Your life is completely hopeless,” and then I would go from there. It was a struggle just to make it through to each step of the day. The way I made it through was just to think, What am I going to do next? What will I do? I can make it to there.

It was characterized by panic attacks. For the first six months I battled thoughts of death. I’d think about an event that was three months away: Why am I thinking about that? I’m going to be dead by then. I had feelings of tightness in my chest, buzzing and itching on my arms, buzzing on my face. It was a horrible time. And in the midst of that I cried out to God, and I certainly talked to the pastor that I served with and other pastors that I knew—good friends—trying to figure out what in the world was going on with my life.

Five or six children at that time, a fruitful life, a fruitful ministry. And this is what I discovered: although I’d been a Christian for twenty-two years (since 1972) I was driven by a desire to be praised by men. And I wasn’t succeeding. When you plant a church, you find out that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with you. People who came to plant the church left. All of that assaulted my craving to be admired and praised and loved and worshiped and adored and applauded. God, I believe, just took his hand from me and said, “Okay, you handle this your way.” I knew the gospel, but what I didn’t know was how great a sinner I was. I thought the gospel I needed was for pretty good people, and that wasn’t sufficient to spare me from the utter hopelessness I felt during that time.

I would read Scripture. It didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t affect me. I remember lying at bed at times just reciting the Lord’s Prayer to myself over and over and over, hoping that would help. I couldn’t sleep; then at times all I wanted to do was sleep. I remember saying this early on: “God, if you keep me like this for the rest of my life but it means that I will know you better, then keep me like this.” That was the hardest prayer I’ve ever prayed.

During that time I read an abridged version of John Owen’s Sin and Temptation and Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace.

About a year into the process I talked to a good friend, Gary Ricucci, whom I am now in a small group with at Covenant Life Church. I said, “Gary, I feel hopeless all the time.”

He said, “You know, Bob? I think your problem is that you don’t feel hopeless enough.”

I don’t know what I looked like on the outside, but on the inside I was saying, “You are crazy. You are crazy. I feel hopeless.”

He said, “No, if you were hopeless, you would stop trusting in yourself and rely completely on what Jesus Christ accomplished for you.”

That was the beginning of the way out. And I remember saying to myself literally hundreds of times—every time these feelings of hopelessness and panic and a desire to ball up in a fetal position would come on me—“I feel completely hopeless because I am hopeless, but Jesus Christ died for hopeless people, and I’m one of them.”

Over time I began to believe that. And today when I tell people that Jesus is a great Savior, I believe it, because I know that he saved me. That’s where my joy comes from. My joy comes from knowing that at the very bottom, at the very pit of who I am, it is blackness and sin, but the love and grace of Jesus goes deeper.

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