EVERY winter my curry leaf plant looks as though it is dead and beyond recovery. EVERY year my husband gives up on it and EVERY time my husband makes a comment on my curry leaf plant’s tragic demise, I jump to its rescue as its sole defender and takes up the case to prove otherwise- because I have seen, and are familiar with-a pattern.
“There are two ways to look at it,” I say. “My plant is not dead, its dormant. The harsh winter has made it dormant. Let this winter pass and you will see life again.” He looks at me, chuckles at my fierceness and says, “wow, I know someone who sure is not dead!”
Doing too much has been my other name for sometime now. I take pleasure in productivity. Relying on the righteousness of Christ alone is scary for me, I need works- real works to go with it and prove life within me. Over the years there was a pattern building in me. Fruitfulness equals productivity and more the productivity more life.
And then God allows winter spiritual realities.
There are times in our Christian life God lets us go through harsh winters. Where life is not visible outside and people give up on you. You are sidelined and rejected. Rather than trusting Christ’s righteousness in us in those times, we are tempted to produce our own righteousness. Because we can’t face our perceived uselessness. Oh, how we want to bring to the table our fruits.We want to prove we are not dead. We resists the winter schedule the Master ordains. It feels severe to us.
Sadly, God ordains that to make our soul harvest plentiful the next season.
One of the most major battles while being closed in/ being benched by God is;
We are used to a pattern of finding purpose and proving purpose with productivity. Life equals thriving luscious leaves for some of us. Harsh winters and near spiritual death makes us believe the lie- I am not needed or wanted anymore. I am useless.
We derive our meaning in Christian life by being involved, and from belonging to a cause. Sometimes we also base our identity and usefulness on participating in a cause. And then it happens, Boom! Boom! Bam!! The Coach call us to the benches and ask us to watch the play! What an insult to our performance. On the outside, we are sitting; but on the inside we are so on the fields.
How to Survive The Harsh Winters of Soul
A) Manage the Immediate– What ever your hands find to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Even when we think we are not producing, there is much needed to survive and not die. We are all called to be managers of our immediate. There are so many areas in our immediate that are untended and uncared that could use our might. May be this is the time to cut back on everything else and focus on our heart and spiritual survival that it may not die.
When my curry leaf plant shuts down, its dead to everyone else, but I know there is much work at the roots to just let the plant survive. There are seasons God calls us into seclusion to cut back and rest.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31)
B) Understand God’s Definition of Fruitfulness– In God’s economy, usefulness and productivity have another name-“abiding.”
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15: 7,8 emphasis mine)
“By this…” By what? – It’s when you abide, God sees you fruitful and when God is most glorified. When harsh winters occur in spiritual life, its important to know that if I abide in Him and let His words abide in me, I am fruitful according to God. Understanding God’s definition will set us free from feelings of uselessness.
C) Be Single Minded– When we are in the benches and when we feel useless, it’s hard to cheer for the other players. Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote, ” Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will…The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” Phil (1:16-18)
Paul felt trapped in the prison, when the work was going on in Philippians. Not only that he could not do his heart’s desire ( of laboring for God’s kingdom), he had to face preachers with false motives that could have instigated ill feelings in Paul. Paul was an unusual man. He was not given in to ill feelings, but he rejoiced that Christ was preached anyway!
We need to be unusual people like Paul who possess that single mindedness and who knows the seasons and defer to them. If victory of the team is what we desire, regardless of who is playing, we can still rejoice in the benches and cheer the team on. But, it takes single mindedness that says,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” (Phil 1:12)
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” (Phil 1:18)
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
A friend of mine shared this story with me of a time when she took a retreat and was sitting by the bank of a river reflecting on the challenges in her life and she saw how near the banks of the river, the water was muddy and farther away deeper into the river the water was clear. The muddy water looked useless and ugly and took away the beauty of the place. In looking close though she saw many organisms thriving in the muddy water. There was life happening right there that looked so ugly a moment ago.
Those muddy water were very much needed for the ecosystem. what is released into the deeper water is usually originated in the ugly useless muddy banks.
Dear ones, do not give up on life that is happening right now in the muddy benches of your life.
Have you been through near death experiences in your spiritual journey? Have you felt purposeless? How did you survive?