It was the end of January during one of the coldest winters I could remember, with more snow than I wanted to see and temperatures plummeting to -30 degrees F and staying there for days on end. I had just returned from my first missions trip to Mozambique and was still suffering from a bit of jet lag and more than a bit of culture shock – now reversed. The huge missions compound with 200 children was built on sand, as far as the eye could see and the weary sandaled feet could plod. Temperatures were 120 degrees F and higher indoors than out, unbearable but for the mercy of one beautiful shade tree.
Now I was suddenly plopped back into this Canadian deep freeze, plodding through snow instead of sand. The physical aspects alone were enough to produce culture shock. But that was the least of it. Everything was turned upside down – especially my heart. Pieces of it were left in the red dirt of Africa. I wondered now if I had even been of any help to anyone on this trip, thinking of others who had to care for me when I became ill.
On one of those dead-locked winter days I was driving past a favorite greenhouse that I loved to frequent in the summer. Remembering the scent of roses and wet dirt, of walking through aisles of hundreds of fragrant blooms with the sun coming through all the glass windows, I instinctively pulled into the parking lot. I needed to see something, anything alive and green. The sign on the door read “Open”!
Almost in shock, I turned the handle and the door opened with a creak. I had entered another world. Fog covered the bottom windows while sunlight streamed in from the glass above, melting the snow from my boots into little puddles of water on the concrete floor. The smell of moist earth brought tears to my eyes and the sight of aisle after aisle of green plants was almost dreamlike.
Closer inspection revealed that these were all starters – new, young plants grown from seed or cuttings from last season’s mature plants. Here they were lovingly fed, watered and nurtured to become beautiful, fruitful plants for the season ahead.
I picked up one of the small clay pots in my gloved hands, turning it around to view the tiniest geranium I had ever seen. It was as if a normal geranium had been shrunk to microscopic size. But each leaf was perfectly formed in miniature. Lifting it to my nose brought the same pungent fragrance that had perfumed my gardens for years. Imagine! Something so tiny it was barely identifiable, yet it already contained the true fragrance of the flower it would become next summer when the winter was over and gone.
Tiny tomato plants with the smell of ripe tomatoes brought fresh tears to my eyes and a prayer to my lips there in the midst of the damp earth and the promise of Spring. “Oh God, please let my life be like this tiny plant. Nurture me here in Your arms until all that You’ve placed within me comes into fullness and fruitfulness in the seasons ahead.”
I was awakened from sleep by the sweet perfume of flowers on my night table. One pink stargazer lily was nestled into a basket surrounded by many other lovely flowers, a gift from friends on my birthday. The fragrance of that one lily was permeating the air. It was only one flower in a basket of many other scentless ones. Yet the aroma was so intense.
Although I loved the fragrance, it was becoming overpowering and interrupting my sleep. So I got up and moved it from the bedroom into the en-suite bathroom. Half an hour later, even from that distance, the room was still filled with its spicy sweetness. Finally I arose again, moving it to a room down the hall and closing the door. All the while the Lord was speaking deep within me.
“I want your life to be like this lily. Let the fragrance of your love for Me be so intense that it penetrates the atmosphere around you and cannot be ignored. It is the scent of life to those who are Mine and the smell of death to the enemy. He is allergic to it. (2 Cor.2:15,16)
“Don’t think that you have no influence because you are only one small person in an obscure place. My Presence can flow out through you in a wordless Spirit communication to those around you. You carry my fragrance which will draw others to Me and produce much fruit for the Kingdom.”
Fruitfulness flows from intimacy with Jesus. It’s a natural by-product or result. We don’t have to choose one or the other … it’s both. Of course there is work to do and He will let us help. But the goal is Him … intimacy with Him. That is the end in itself. Everything flows from that but that’s not why we seek intimacy – so that we can gain anything else. We seek to be with Him because we are in love with Him. Out of that intimate place He will pour His love through us to everyone around us. That’s how it’s supposed to work … like the branch on the vine that Jesus spoke of. (John 15:5) The focus is not on ministry or power or authority. When our hearts are fully His, He will give us the power to love with.
We must not try to serve for intimacy – that is backwards. We cannot do things to earn or gain His love. He loves us already and wants us to return His love in relationship. (1 John 4:19)
We don’t have an ulterior motive about this relationship and just draw closer to Him out of duty so that we can be more fruitful. Some have actually done that, as if intimacy was a fad so they “tried it” for awhile. But if their hearts were not really in love with Him, they soon returned to the futility of working to gain His approval.
Make sure your motives are pure. We do not seek intimacy with Him to gain anything else – not even power to work for Him. We do not treat him as one with whom we have to deal, only to receive something else we want. (Most men know when they are being used … when a woman wants their money or power or sense of importance for herself instead of truly being in love with him. Jesus knows too and it causes Him much grief and sorrow.) If you find your motives are wrong … just repent sincerely and ask Him for His mind, His heart.
This is another example of the great paradox that I spoke of in the last posting (Satisfied, yet longing still). Actually, our entire Christian lives are full of what our natural mind would consider to be paradox. We die to live. We lose to gain. When we are weak, then we are strong. God is unseen, yet fully revealed. He is the lion and the lamb. It seems the closer we get to Him, the more difficult it is to use earthly language to describe Heavenly things. But we must finally come to the point of embracing both sides of this coin and learn to live in this tension between the two realms. One day we will be fully there in His realm. But for now we are creatures of both realms, interacting frequently back and forth.
There have been times when I was confused and torn between these two things – intimacy with the Lord or ministry to others. My heart longs for Him so much that I choose to stay in the secret place alone with Him for long periods of time. But at some point I start to long for people to minister to … to bring them closer to Him as well. Other times I was so involved in ministry that my time with Him was limited and my heart became sick with love and longing for Him. (Song of Sol. 2:5 Amp) Finally, He showed me the pattern, the rhythm of the bride in the Song of Solomon. She lives there with Him in the mountains. Then she goes with Him leaning on His arm, into the villages to check on the fruit and into the fields to bring in the harvest. And when the day is done they return home together … always together.
Make us one with You, Oh God!