Hidden Treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” ~Jesus
Matthew 13:44

In one of my favorite parables, Jesus told of his unfathomable love for us. He compared us to buried treasure! Treasure that was sought out, found, purchased, and protected by him. He had everything. He gave everything, for us.

There is more than that to the parable though, something I had never seen until this week. He bought more than the treasure. He gave everything…for the field. I don’t know what your field looked like when you let Jesus find you (if you did already), but the one he found me in was full of garbage. It was a mess. Filthy, wild, overgrown, stony, parched, untended.

He didn’t just pluck me out of that field, he has set about reclaiming, restoring, and repurposing it. We have partnered together to clear out the trash, find and remove the stones, mow, plow, plant, water, weed, and tend that field. He’s hidden me in the middle of a beautiful garden!

This week, a friend opened up the parable to a whole other level for me. It’s also a picture of marriage. You are agreeing to take on someone else’s whole field, full of who knows what, when you claim that treasure. Their history, wounds, weaknesses, irritating habits… It’s enough to bring any hasty tendencies that creep up on me to a screeching halt. I keep wanting to say, “Better make sure that treasure is worth it!” but he is showing me it’s less about the treasure than the heart of the finder.

It would be so easy to believe I could never be worth all he gave to take me on! But I am, because he said so and did so. That is true love. I’m still struggling with this whole concept. Please know I’m not saying we are to latch onto the first person we come across and dive into their field without serious prayer and patience. I believe there is a Best for us, if we are patient enough to wait for it. And, as my dad wisely pointed out, we are responsible for seeing how well that field is being stewarded. You would not have wanted to marry me before I partnered with Christ to clean up my field. Believe me, I have references.

It’s given me a fuller and more accurate picture of marriage…and a huge admiration for those who have entered into it this way. It’s what I want, or nothing at all. I believe that when the time is right, I will find the treasure that he’s been preparing me for. I pray for courage to follow in Jesus’ selfless footsteps – to sell out and joyfully buy the field for it. Until then, I will revel, arms stretched wide and spinning, in the garden we are cultivating. I thank him, and I thank him, and I thank him.

Beauty from Ashes

Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.
Proverbs 17:17

I was raised the only girl wedged in between three brothers. We lived just far enough away that they were my primary playmates. Oh how I longed for a sister to be a girl with!

By the time I got to college, I was a mess. I didn’t know how to love or how to be a friend. Yet there she was, in her blonde and brilliant glory! She was the first girl to truly know me, even better than I did myself. I loved her as well as I knew how but, being so broken, our friendship was far from healthy.

As these stories too often go, I got married, moved, and we lost touch.

I finally met Jesus fifteen years later. As he held my hand and walked me through the process of dismantling everything I knew and rebuilding me from the ground up, he showed me what true love and friendship look like. The stories I could write about his friendship would fill novels! But this story doesn’t end there.

I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
and all your walls with precious stones.
Isaiah 54:11-12

As the walls of my life were being rebuilt and healthy relationships being established all around me, my heart grew heavy to think of the precious gift of friendship I had so casually tossed out, of the beautiful girl who I never quite felt secure enough to know as well as she knew me. I became more aware of his desire for forgiveness between us. Even (gasp!) for reconciliation.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust…
Joel 2:25

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was reach out to this woman of God. See, we had allowed just about every kind of locust to destroy us. She knew me at my worst, and it was truly awful. That was who she knew, but I was coming to her as a new person, redeemed and free. Navigating those first few months was painfully difficult. We finally agreed to pretend like we just met, while remembering where I came from. That is what makes our story so amazing.

What a beautiful friendship he has birthed in us! It is now founded and grounded on a miracle. He restored to us the friendship he intended from the beginning, replaced our ashes with beauty. She is my treasured friend, my mentor, and now, praise God, my sister.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
Isaiah 61:1-4 (excerpts)

NOTE: Entered this for a Friendspiration contest on the new Flourish blog. Written to give thanks to a dear friend who has walked with me through thick and thin, and to bring honor to the King of restoration. We won! 🙂

Love, Awakening

Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases.
Song of Solomon 2:7

Oh, to understand love.

I’ve spent three years delving into Love in its purest forms. Every time I think I’m starting to get it, there is more. A deeper level. It’s neverending!

This weekend I dusted off the first journals from my walk and revisited the earliest promises I ever heard from God. A promise from God is just that, a promise. But it isn’t necessarily meant for today. Some are delivered instantly, but some require special “processing” in our lives before they can be fulfilled. This can be a lengthy process, especially if there’s more than one person involved in your promise!

I haven’t written much about romantic love in these blogs because, well, it hasn’t come up. I haven’t really dated since I met Jesus. To truly grasp that God’s best is worth waiting for is one thing – a really big thing in my case! But waiting for a specific bud of promise to blossom into reality can be maddening. It can be, if you shift your focus onto the promise.

Just when I was about to start talking here about Abraham being willing to sacrifice his long-awaited promise (his son and legacy, no less), I remembered that I’ve already done this. Two years ago, I walked through the process of laying down a promise I had gotten too attached to at the wrong time, where I used the same example.

Revisiting the experience of that postponed promise brought back a lot of emotions, but the strongest is gratitude. I am so thankful that I was not allowed to enter in to my promise then. I had allowed a man to come dangerously close to becoming an idol in my life. I had given up a little too much real estate in a heart that no longer belonged to me. I had pinned completely unfair and unrealistic expectations onto a human being, longings only my savior can fill. The One I desire above all others and I had a lot of walking to do alone, and I had a lot of learning to do about real love.

Now, I can truly say that my greatest desire in the world, if I could have one wish (besides infinity wishes), is to have more of the Lord. To know him deeper. That is a miracle. I have asked to see how he sees us, love how he loves us. I have a long way to go! Do you recall how he loves us?

We were weak and could not help ourselves. Then Christ came at the right time and gave His life for all sinners. No one is willing to die for another person, but for a good man someone might be willing to die. But God showed His love to us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

What I’m realizing “in real life” is that true love really stinks from a fleshly sense. It requires a death, a complete sacrifice…even for those who are unworthy. Forgiveness…even for those who are undeserving. That is possible only when you stop focusing on yourself. Awakening true love means dying to yourself. But you gain a new life. A bigger life. Together. How beautiful it is when that is reciprocated.

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature…
2 Peter 1:4

We all have promises that are on hold for one reason or another. Those postponed promises are still promises. Get ready for them! Don’t rush them! Waiting for the right time will make them that much sweeter to walk into.

Treading Water

Nothing drives me more crazy than feeling like I’m wasting time. Most of my adult life, I’ve been pretty ruthless when it comes to this. The second I sense there is a lack of growth, productivity, or benefit from a job or relationship, I have ended it immediately.

It’s been interesting to see how that has changed since I met Jesus!

I experienced a radical life transformation, but while my desires and my heart have changed, a lot of my traits still linger on. I mean, I still have my core personality! My tendency is to do things big and fast.

That’s apparently not the way he would have me do things. These last three years, I have been given some of the tiniest baby steps you can imagine. I have been told “WAIT” in no uncertain terms. I have been asked to invest months in exercises that, at the outset, seem unnecessary. To me, anyway.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
Proverbs 19:2

He is teaching me that his timing is best. His best is worth waiting for. His best is worth working for.

As the days go by, I find myself living more and more patiently, choosing the slower path over a quicker promotion, because it truly yields a better outcome. Still, there is always that little itch to fly…NOW!

There are times that it feels like I really am treading water when I agree to complete the details of each baby step assignment. I looked that expression up, and the first thing I found was: Someone who is treading water is not doing anything to make progress.

Oh wow. I think there is so much more to that idiom! Someone who is treading water may not be making outward, visible progress, but they are also not drowning. There is a beautiful unquitting, a struggling, a determination of spirit in those who don’t give up! While it may seem futile and unproductive on the surface, strength and endurance is building below.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Hebrews 10:36

In each of these seasons of “treading water”, I am growing stronger in silence. While I have often thought I could skip a baby step or two, each one has prepared me to handle the next step with more grace, strength, and patience. I love learning to settle into his timing! It is simplifying my life, and will bring him more glory in the end. Praise God!

It has happened so that it will bring honor to God.
John 11:4

Friends, don’t give up when you feel like you’re treading water. You’re gaining more than you know. Keep kicking!