Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Incremental Growth

The White Cedar is the slowest growing tree on earth.  It is not the tallest or the thickest tree in the forest.  In fact, it's kind of short and stunted compared to its brethren in the Northern forests of Canada due to the difficult growing conditions in which it is often found growing. However, the White Cedar is also the oldest tree in Canada and eastern North America; many live to be over 1,000 years old.  It's probably the wisest too! 

 The White Cedar takes root in the rock of high places, where it finds protection from animals and wildfires.  The tree's taxonomy or official classification is thuga occidentalis, however its common name  is  Arbor vitae, or "tree of life" as it is commonly referred to, not only for its numerous medicinal properties but because of its "myriad of uses in both craft and construction".   The tree of life is also known as the grandmother tree by the Chippewa nation because of her great age, strength, wisdom, and generosity.

So what.  It's a tree right?  What the heck does that have to with me you may ask.  Arbor vitae is not just a tree, it's a prophetic witness to the PROCESS, PATIENCE, and WISDOM of our God.  We could stand to learn a few things from the grandmother tree as we seek to evaluate our lives for a higher purpose. You see,  our microwave culture has conditioned us to be sloppy in our spiritual growth and has resulted in a sort of spiritual slothfulness that we Westerners like to call busyness.  i am guilty!  i admit that sometimes I equate my doing with my worth. It's sin.

In my last blog i hinted at the fact that i had discovered a key to the next stage of "re-monking" our lives together.  Thanks to Mark Scandrette, whose article "Experiments in Truth 2011" became an avenue of God's revelation into my heart, i have been refreshed again by the hope of leaving these doldrums for a good long time!  But its gonna take some paddling and some friends to do so.  Keep tracking with me...


i believe that as Western Christians we think too much of ourselves and God's purpose for our lives.  We have been sold a bill of goods that it's all about us (even though we say with such great humility that it's not),  that we can have our best life now, that we need to be purpose- driven in order to reach our dreams and destiny, and that if we don't get busy, God's going to find someone else to do that which He called you to do!    i'm not sure that St. Patrick or John Wesley were signing books and holding conferences on how to prosper in a down economy.

Does He want to bless us with good things? Absolutely, but not to our peril.   Bill Johnson recently said, "God wants to fulfill the desires of our hearts. But like any wise Father He will not do what we ask if it would destroy us. Yet many of those desires are good, but we lack the character for the blessing to actually add quality to our lives. Thus the purpose of discipline: God disciplines us so we can survive His blessings."  So where does that lead us? 

God's word is clear that He wants His people to prosper...and He does have amazing, huge plans for each of us; after all, we are His kids...the ones He loves as He loves Himself.   But I think I've found where it all gets confused and out of whack.  You see, we get inundated with God's big plan for our lives, and how He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, and that's OK.  But the problem is that we are rarely taught that the BIG DREAM of God for our lives (more than major ministry success,  business enterprise that finally makes us able to give generously, a book deal that launches our speaking career, or a singing gig that lands us a record contract) is that we are conformed to the image of Christ!  Many times, we get so fixated on the end dream or destiny, that we get overwhelmed, and we condemn ourselves for not doing enough to make our dream in God come to pass, and eventually, we give up on the dream altogether because we found that it was impossible and that we were naiveIn our neglect of the incremental, we sacrifice the dream.


So How do we get there? -without shipwrecking our dream or ourselves in the PROCESS-

The answer is simple.  We get there incrementally. Small steps. We root ourselves in the rock one ring at a time. One year at a time. And we trust God to bring us into the destiny that He has for us instead of striving for the destiny that looks good to us.  My friend Josh Newman once said to me at a time when he had finally stopped striving with God about his destiny to minister with David Hogan in the mountains of Mexico, "God knows where I live." 

There is wisdom in this incremental formation, for when we submit to it, we are saying yes to God's sovereignty in our lives.  But if we rebel against the days of small beginnings and strive along a path not intended, we may very well miss out on what God has planned.  However, if we stay small, and grow slow, we will find ourselves to be a tree of life (Arbor vitae) , a tree whereto many come for its healing and medicinal properties... just like Jesus.  We must remember that the very Son of God himself, spent thirty years working with wood, studying the scriptures, being obedient to his parents, and making friends, before he ever launched out into public ministry.  

In my next blog, Lord willing, I am going to address how we PRACTICALLY do the incremental thing, or as Thomas Oden puts it "learning to appreciate the hard work of developing durable habits of moral excellence in a covenant community."  i love that!  And i hope you will too! So check back often, i can't wait to start getting into the nuts and bolt of "re-monking" our lives together.

In the Lion, In the Lamb,


Mark

3 comments:

  1. hearty chunk! looking forward to the next few nuggets!!!!

    love, ju

    ReplyDelete
  2. "i believe that as Western Christians we think too much of ourselves and God's purpose for our lives. We have been sold a bill of goods that it's all about us (even though we say with such great humility that it's not), that we can have our best life now, that we need to be purpose- driven in order to reach our dreams and destiny, and that if we don't get busy, God's going to find someone else to do that which He called you to do! i'm not sure that St. Patrick or John Wesley were signing books and holding conferences on how to prosper in a down economy."

    ---I like this statement...While I don't know where you stand on everything, I believe the same way about this. It's not about us and if we are about God...we're going to suffer...like St. Patrick did. Not too many people want to hear that...in fact the reason I think the majority of American's still check the circle next to Christian is because the majority are clinging to some notion that embracing Christianity and claiming allegiance to God's way is going to somehow prosper them. "Vanity, Vanity, says the preacher...all is Vanity."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautifully put, my friend. LOVE getting to see your heart poured out in this format. Can't wait to continue the journey with you.

    ReplyDelete