Weeds (Part One)

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The verses above will be the base of the next few blog posts I write. When reading this passage in 2 Corinthians, I tend to skip the beginning part about the “thorn” and “messenger of Satan” and stick to the park about “grace” and “power”. But the Lord has been showing me the significance of this passage and its application in my life. He has taught me a LOT, and I would like to share as much of it as possible. Before beginning this post, I decided I had way too much to say in just one. So, congratulations! You get to read through three different posts which will kind of build off each other. Buckle up.

“I created this blog with the intention of it being a place to document my spiritual journey, including the flaws, failures, struggles, accomplishments, victories, and joys of my everyday life. I want it to be a place where I can be real. I want it to be a place where I can share the things that I am learning and ways that I am growing spiritually. I want it to be a place where I can remember the goodness and the love of my Father and the incredible things He is doing in my life.”

I wrote this statement in my very first blog post back in January 2019. I started this blog to make memories. I wanted “to be able to look back on these posts and see how far God has brought me… That on days I am struggling, I will be able to look back and remember the grace of God… That on the good days I can look back and rejoice and praise God for the love he has poured out over me….That the words I write now will be seeds planted that will grow into something more.”

That was my goal. The words I wrote then sting a little bit to read now, though. I was really easy to say I would share my flaws, failures, and struggles, alongside the accomplishments, victories, and joys, but that has failed to happen. Not because I have not struggled or failed in my life. Not because I don’t have flaws. (I have so many more than you could ever know, trust me.) I have not shared them, because I find it embarrassing. I find it humiliating to admit that I am weak, struggling, hurting, making mistakes, and failing. Basically, I don’t like to admit I am a fallen, sinful human being just like everyone else in this world. Because of this pride, I have missed out on sharing some of the most incredible lessons God has taught me. The growth I have experienced in the hard times in my life has been hidden.

My heart is like a plot of land filled with weeds. The soil is good and full of nutrients that allows for growth – it was created that way – but for too long I have given these weeds access to the soil. They have taken over and become unmanageable. I can still try to pull them up on my own, but I do not have the proper tools for it. As I tug at the weeds, they snap off, leaving the roots behind in the soil. Since I don’t have anything but my hands to dig the roots out, a new weed springs up from the same root. No matter how many times I tug on the weeds and try to make my garden look nice, I will never be able to grow anything else in it, because the weeds are still taking over the soil. All I am accomplishing on my own is covering up the things which are now hidden beneath the soil. I will never be able to have things which bear fruit in that garden of my heart, because I do not have any seeds, I could not dig a hole deep enough to plant them without the proper tools anyway, and even if I could, the weeds would choke them out and take all the nutrients they need to spring up and grow.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

When I made the decision to follow Christ, my heart was exposed to His brilliant light and glory. This light fell on the garden of my heart, and because of the new light, the weeds in my life began to spring up in the soil again. They were no longer hidden beneath it, but instead became exposed in His light. In an effort to stop the growth, I tried to cover everything up with whatever I could find – trying to block the light so the ugly, nasty weeds would stay hidden beneath the soil. But that’s not how it works when you walk in the light.

Nothing I could do by myself was able to fix the problem I was having. I was incapable of taking care of these horrible weeds on my own. But that is to be expected of someone who is not a Gardener. Patiently standing nearby, offering help, but waiting until I opened the gate to let Him in, was the true Gardener. Finally, when I realized how desperately I needed help, I allowed him to come into my garden and help me. He pulled sharp tools from his bag and began His work on the weeds, but instead of trying to pull them out, He attacked them at the root. As the tools broke the soil of my heart, it hurt. As He uprooted the weeds and broke them away from the ground, it hurt. But slowly, over time, He removed each of the weeds.

He could have stopped there – it would have been more than enough – but He didn’t. Instead, He took a bag of seeds He carried with Him, and began placing these seeds in the soil where the weeds had been. Then, carefully, He turned over the soil, and covered the seeds. He continued like this, day after day, week after week. Sometimes the weeds were rooted very deeply and He would spend more time making sure every bit of it was removed from the soil.

To my dismay, as I looked back over the parts of the garden behind us, the light was causing the seeds to spring up, but along with the new plants were weeds also breaking through the soil. But I realized this time, to block out the light would also cause the new plants to die. The Gardener came to me and knelt beside me near these new plants and the weeds. He lovingly showed me how to distinguish the weeds from the true plants. Then, He took His hands, and showed me how to take out the small weeds from the soil along with the root. And then, He took His tools and worked beside me. As He removed the larger weeds, He helped me to work at the smaller ones so they would not take deep root in the soil again. Over time, from seeing His work, I learned more and more how to tend to my garden. I grew in my understanding and he graciously taught me more and more. I would never be a Gardener like Him – He had understanding of things beyond my imagination – but I could learn from walking beside Him how to be more like Him.

The light continued to expose weeds, but I finally saw the importance of the light as my new plants began to grow more and more and bear fruit. However, as other people walked by my garden, I started to become embarrassed. As they looked, they could see the new plants, but they could also see the small weeds springing up and the large weeds the Gardener was still working on. So I began to build a wall around my garden to block the view. I wanted to tell people all about the beautiful garden I had thanks to the Gardener, but because of the wall I put up, they could not see the beauty and importance of it. In fact, some did not even believe me.

The Gardener again saw my frustration, and gently and lovingly showed me what my wall was doing. Yes, it was blocking others from seeing the weeds springing up and the ones still being uprooted, but it was also blocking other things. First, although it blocked the view of the weeds, it also blocked the view of the new plants which would become beautiful and bear fruit. Second, it also was not allowing others to see the Gardener at work. If others were in need of help and could not see the good work he was doing in my life, they would not know who to ask for help. And finally, as we walked to the other side of the wall, He showed me the wall was casting a shadow on my garden as well, blocking out the light. It was not just limiting the view of others, it was actually interfering with the growth of my garden.

This wall can be many things. For me, though, I have seen lately that it is pride. In an effort to make myself look better and more put together, my pride becomes a barrier. As I limit the things I share with the people around me, I also limit what they can see God doing in my life. If nobody can see the impact the light of Jesus has had on my life and the incredible work He has done to save me from myself, then what is the point of all of this?

As I have been discovering this over the past weeks, I have realized that one part of my life this impacts in many ways is my health. So, in the next couple posts, my hope is that I can begin breaking down the wall I have built up and be more transparent about what is going on in my life in this area. God is doing so. many. amazing. things. and His light, glory, power, and love should never be hidden by my own pride.

Heavenly Father, you are so great and so merciful. You have saved me from the sin, pain, and death that I could never have handled on my own – not in an eternity. That is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. Jesus, you took the death I deserved and gave me life with the Father that you deserved. And not only that, but you have also given me the gift of your Holy Spirit to be with me always. And you have given me so much more as well – a life that is full of your blessings, which may bear fruit as I walk with you in the light. You deserve all the glory, honor, and praise. All I have to offer is myself. So help me, Father, to glorify you, honor you, and praise you with my life. Let your light be visible to everyone around. Thank you for everything that you have done, all you are doing, and everything you will do in advance. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Keystone

The very stone masons rejected as flawed has turned out to be the most important capstone of the arch, holding up the very house of God.

Psalm 118:22 TPT

Usually, when I hear God compared to a stone in the Bible, it is in reference to Him being a firm foundation (Psalm 18:2, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Matthew 7:24-27) or a cornerstone in the foundation of the temple of God (Ephesians 2 19-22, Isaiah 28:16, 1 Peter 2:7-8). This paints a beautiful picture of how our lives are meant to be built upon the truth of Christ. He is the only firm foundation, and as the cornerstone, He is the first and most crucial piece in the foundation of our lives.

Today, as I was studying some of these scriptures, one verse referenced Psalm 118:22 in the footnotes. I flipped through my Bible to find it and, when I read the verse, I had to sit in silence for a few moments.

In the Passion Translation, this verse in Psalms uses the word “capstone” rather than cornerstone and depicts an archway rather than a foundation. Before I explain the significance of that comparison for me, I will do my very best to explain why this is such a great analogy.

I am definitely not an architect, but I have a very deep appreciation for art. A couple years ago, I had to take an art course for college that ended up focusing quite a bit on architectural art rather than just paintings and sculptures. I found this section of the course extremely interesting, especially when they spent time discussing cathedrals, churches, and buildings that are standing after hundreds of years. Things we build today are so temporary compared to those stone fortresses, temples, and houses of God. Not just that, but so many of them include some of the most beautiful gothic architecture and art of the time period. Massive ogival arches, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults… it’s absolutely breathtaking. And so many are still standing.

Even though these buildings are massive and are so complex in design, they were built to stand hundreds of years without crumbling, toppling, or disintegrating. (This is the part of the art course that fascinated me.) When I studied the construction of archways in some of these buildings, basically the only thing discussed was the importance of the capstone (typically called a “keystone”). The keystone is the stone which rests at the very top of the arch in the center.

Although this is not an example of gothic architecture, the Arc de Triomphe features a very obvious keystone.

When building an arch, the keystone is place in the arch at the very end. Although it is added last, this stone has the most important job of any stone in the arch. (I will summarize this quite a bit, but I highly suggest looking more into the physics of how this all works because it’s extremely fascinating.) The keystone is usually a slightly different shape than other stones in the arch, with a wider top and narrower base. The angle of the sides allows for the force placed on the keystone to be directed down through the branches of the arch toward the ground. By distributing the weight in this way, the keystone allows the arch to not only bear the weight of itself without crumbling, but also bear the load of anything built on top of it.

So Christ is our Keystone. The reason the verse in Psalm 118 affected me so deeply is because it addresses the way Christ was first “rejected as flawed”. The masons (that’s us – humanity as a whole and those who placed Him on the cross) did not see the potential Jesus had or the purpose He was created for. Jesus challenged what was viewed as “normal” when He was here. He was unlike any other person who had walked this earth, because He was created for a purpose nobody else could ever or would ever be able to fulfill. Jesus was not the same shape as the other stones because He did not have the same purpose in the arch the rest of us did.

He had the final word. Although Jesus was cast aside, He ended up being the most important piece in the final structure. When He died on the cross, He took his place the Keystone in the Kingdom of God. With His dying breath, He became fixed in place, bearing the weight of sin for every person that had lived or ever would. The death and resurrection gave Him the final word in the battle between life and death. He was the final piece God needed in the construction of His holy temple. Because of Jesus, the weight of sin and death which should have caused us to crumble was absorbed and redirected. He has allowed us (the church and the stones) to be part of the Kingdom which will stand for eternity. This arch, where Jesus is the Keystone, is the only gateway to eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.

How incredibly beautiful is that?

In my own life, the picture of Jesus being the Keystone is also very significant. My own life is not supposed to be like one of the beautiful gothic cathedrals because my life is not meant to be a lasting temple or house. My life is temporary and is part of my preparation for the eternity I will spend in Heaven. It is something I will pass through, like an archway, to enter into eternity with Jesus. God has given me many beautiful stones to construct my life. The thing is, I can work my whole life on building an elaborate, complex, detailed, and breath-taking arch with these stones, but if I don’t have the Keystone, all my work will crumble before my eyes. There is a weight to life, a weight to blessing, a weight to suffering, a weight to dreams, a weight to being which I cannot bear on my own. Nothing can bear the weight of it aside from Jesus.

In order to construct my life in a way that will be lasting and will withstand the force and pressure from the enemy, Jesus, my Keystone, needs to be at the center of it all. Not only that, He needs to be the highest point. The focus of my life needs to be completely directed to Him. When I focus my life on Him and allow the weight of those stones to rely on Him, He shows me how to direct my attention and focus through each of the other pieces I have been given.

God is my Rock and my Foundation. He is my Cornerstone, the first piece in my life’s foundation. He is the First. And He is the Last. Christ is my Keystone. He is the last piece in my arch, the center and highest point in the life I am building.