My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –

ūüėČ

Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.

Above All Names – Chief Cornerstone

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Psalm 118:22

Jesus as Chief Cornerstone certainly gives us a solid mental image of the Truth that He alone is our firm foundation. He holds up the buildings that are our lives, our families, our purpose, our worth, and our souls. However, this passage reminds us that this Cornerstone, this Foundation was rejected by men, deemed not good enough, not worthwhile. We know differently, and when the world rejects Him, we stand in the knowledge that He does not reject us. We run to Him in His Word for sure footing, solid grounding on which to build in this world. Take a moment today to hold a stone in your hand and remember His faithfulness in the midst of this world full of rejection.

Shame-lifter, burden-bearer, Savior, Restorer

Shame does crazy things to us.

It keeps us in the dark, so much so that we can’t even see clearly for our own selves, much less someone else.

Shame stacks on itself also. I have shame from a past sin; I hide it deep within, trying to keep it even from those who love me most, packing it down, deep inside. This packing creates a new space. A space where new sin can come in and we won’t even see it. We’ll be blindsided. Blindsided by addiction, or depression, anxiety, or just a soft chipping away, separating us from people we love for fear they unravel the truth –

we aren’t worthy.

Or we swing the other way, holding our heads high, proclaiming in a thousand tiny ways that we know better, we have at least this part together, we’re just a tiny bit better than “them” at least.

I know I’m making this sound dramatic. Surely life isn’t this desperate, shame this commanding of our every day. And it isn’t, if you know Christ, and it is…just a little, anyway. Can you imagine life not knowing Him? Maybe you do life without Him.

Maybe you know life with no shame-bearer. If so, this blog is especially for you.

This is the language of Paul in Galatians 6:1-5 – Christ in our lives, one another sharing Christ’s love through the work of the Spirit, in order to put shame where it belongs…out of our hearts and on the cross.

Read Galatians 6:1-5 below:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 

Paul’s burden bearing is most often associated with suffering and the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And this is most certainly true. We are called to and we do bear with others in their suffering and their rejoicing, via the work of the Spirit (see Galatians 5) and¬†Romans 12:15:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

There is so much hope in Life Together.

But there is a darker side to suffering and I think Paul addresses this in Galatians 6. Sin happens. We are all sinful, all of us. Every one – you, me, and the guy sitting next to you.

God gives us one another for restoration.

We hear the grace of Christ, not from a sacred orb or a billboard we drive by, but the living, breathing person God puts in front of us. The Word does the work. The Word of God, in the Bible tells the Truth of God’s love and forgiveness, but you, my friend, are the one who changes someone’s life. It is in you the same Spirit Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 inhabits, to reach out to someone struggling in sin.

Galatians 6:3 is crystal clear –

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

We are not better than anyone. We have no less shame than the next person. It is so easy to hide the dark stuff, but we carry the burden of another by sharing who we really are, where we have really been, rather than the spruced up version.

Freedom in Christ looks like reaching across to someone, being real, and helping them hand that burden to Christ, because we know we’ve messed up plenty in our own time.

Greek for restoration in this passage is katartizete Рto fit together, to put in its proper place, to get to its proper destination.

We aren’t here in this life for “a little bit better.” We are here for fitting together as the people of God, in the place and time God has put each of us.

Shame has no place. It doesn’t fit. Instead, God gives us restoration to free us from the weight of the burdens we each hold, whether it’s past or present.

“What are you going through?”

“What is Satan throwing in front of you today?”

“Let’s pray together.”

It is in these moments God works restoration through His Spirit, around His Word.

Dr. Curt Thompson, in his book, Soul of Shame, says it like this…

‚ÄúShame is not something we ‚Äúfix‚ÄĚ in the privacy of our mental processes; evil would love for us to believe that to be so. We combat it within conversation, prayer, and other communal, embodied activities‚Ķ‚ÄĚ (pg 17-18)

Be free – free to be a part of a life with other sinful people, just trying their best, but rejoicing that Jesus Christ fills in all the gaps.

Be free – free to love enough to share hard stuff, to lift someone else’s hard stuff and help them hand it to Christ.

Be free. Galatians 6:4-5 says we test our own actions, carry our own load. It sounds contradictory, but this is the walk of faith – examining myself, confessing my sin and shame, letting Christ wash it away, so that I can help you do the same.

It is for Freedom Christ has set us Free.

 

Discussion questions:

What methods does shame use to keep us from confession?

Tell us about a time you were able to bear someone else’s burden of sin, whether it led to confession or not? What was hard about it? What was good?

Confess one thing to a Christian brother or sister – even a seemingly tiny thing – within the safety of life together and grab ahold of the freedom of forgiveness.