How an outward focus leads to unrealized opportunities
I have this plant in the landscape around our home… My husband knows my love for flowers so for Mother’s Day this year, off to a local garden center we went. There we loaded up on gorgeous plants possessing exquisite pops of color that were just what I wanted to spice up our landscape.
Upon arrival, I was excited, taking it all in as the kids and I walked around ‘oohing,’ and ‘ahhing,’ and at times squealing in delight over the resplendent aisles spread with flower after flower of varieties I had never seen– it was lovely. Many selections were made that afternoon, but out of everything we saw, there was one that stood out among the rest catching my eye in its ability to paint a picture in my mind of its placement in the front corner of our yard begging / needing to be planted there, so with that impressive thought – I added it to our cart, and off we went to begin planting. AND this is the point where my skills drop off. You see, I can tell you what a beautiful plant looks like, I can describe to you the place it will look best, but that’s about as far as I go. You see the details of it all…caring for it, watering it, weeding it…the work…that’s where I drop off, and even considering the beauty of this one, I lost myself in the details. We planted it, and I watered it (the first day, second day – maybe even made it a week), but my enthusiasm waned, and when I finally got back to it after a couple of weeks I gasped as I saw it – dried out, brown leaves, brown stems – it was bad. As I sat there considering whether or not this was a lost cause, I recalled something my Dad taught when I was younger regarding plant shock – vividly I remembered a plant looking similar as he taught me that some plants go through this as their introduced to a new environment. It’s the plant working to re-establish itself in new soil, stretching roots, adjusting to its new placement. Thinking on those words I decided to leave that plant, and see what happened, and as I did something beautiful happened.
1 Samuel 16:7
‘But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
The Lord looks at the heart…
On the outside, our plant looked dead with its crispy dead leaves, and dried out stems. I’ve seen some people who resemble the same, and I’ll confess – I’ve resembled the same in the fact that I’ve been in a spiritually dead place where if you looked on me, you would have likened me to that dead-ish plant. But God – in all His grace had other plans – He has other plans.
The beauty of His is one that works opposite of our minds assumption. It’s a work that does not boast in beauty screaming ‘Look at me!’ No, our God is not that way. He does not consider our appearance in deeming us worthy of His love or capable of His work so when He sets out to do something, He purposes it to last, by beginning at the most impactful place – the heart…the root of a man…A place where no eye can see. Looking at my plant and thinking on this work, I am reminded of our inclination to have judgmental eyes that call something dead without ever considering the happenings on the inside.
God is infinitely wise, and far more gracious to us as we are to one another.
God’s work varies within us all. His patience is unrelenting as we work to surrender to Him. Sadly though, we as outsiders only see the outside of a person which at times tells nothing of the breathtaking backbreaking work unfolding on the inside. Which clearly isn’t for our eyes to see. Many times, God works through in secret what one day in His timing will be declared for all to see. Ashamedly, it’s our lack of respect and know it all attitude that creates in us a harshness and impatience leading us to give up on a person based on their outward man because we believe in a certain time span they must look a certain way, act a specific manner, or speak in a distinct tone.
We’re all a lot alike in our ability to identify what is beautiful.
Some of us have the ability to know in confidence that a person would be great doing this, or they were purposed to do that – but how many of us are willing to step in and do the work we know how to do in helping them take root, and flourish? Some of us cringe at the thought of helping a person much the same as I do when it comes to taking care of my plants – we start off excited by the potential we see in them but over time our enthusiasm over their newness wanes, and the work it takes in helping them in their becoming becomes rough sweat inducing, consistent WORK – and we drop off, giving up on them. We transition to a point of frustration and harshness that if we are not careful can lead us to uproot that person before the world ever has the opportunity to behold the beautiful bloom of their existence that the Lord is working within them.
Why gentleness and patience?
‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.’
The plant in my landscape…for two months it sat there in a seemingly dead state. One day as I was out weeding our flowerbeds I looked at that plant, and no longer did I see dead leaves, and dried stems, but those dead leaves, and dried out stems had given way to luscious leaves, and deep green stems bearing magnificent purple flowers reminding me of the beauty that originally drew me in those months prior.
God gives us incredible pictures in the world around us which are purposed to teach us about this life we live, and how to handle His creation. This plant serves as one of those images reminding us to be gentle, and patient. What we see on the outside is not always a sign of what is going on inside. You see – during those two months, that plant wasn’t just sitting there dead – No, there was a work being done as an unseen and absolutely necessary rooting took place unnoticed by the outside world. There are things going on in the lives of those around us that we cannot see, an unseen and necessary rooting taking place that if we are not careful and we lack the gentleness and patience God has commanded us into we can very well step in the way of and stifle His work by singlehandedly removing an existence that this world so desperately needs to see.
‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
What if today – we made the decision to live this scripture out? What if today, we were forgiving? What if today, we weren’t judgmental?
Will you join me?
I wonder, will you join me in focusing on the words God has given us in 1 Samuel 16:7, Ephesians 4:2, and Colossians 3:13. Yes – they are a tall order…but in acknowledgement of our struggle may we surrender to God through prayer by asking that He help us to see others as He sees them, to purposely act in gentleness and patience, and may he begin a work in us to remove our inclination to stand in his way.
As we begin our day in prayer – my hope is that our graciousness, gentleness, and patience increase through our intentional focus as we – Choose him.