Friday Flora: Insidious

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? 
But if you do not do what is right, 
sin is crouching at your door; 
it desires to have you, 
but you must rule over it."
(Genesis 4:7, NIV)

For the last couple of years, my husband has engaged in a fierce battle against a backyard invader.

Bamboo.

A bamboo shoot, looking innocent in the morning sun

This member of the grass family is actually rather impressive in it’s persistence. Over the last several years, it’s sent scouts into our yard from our neighbor, each one of which we diligently cut down.

Yet over time, one or two scouts became several. Then dozens. Before we knew it, our garden and an entire corner of our yard had been taken over by the quick-growing grass.

The bamboo’s remaining stronghold after a summer of intense warfare

To combat our enemy, it became necessary to remove our garden fence, the entire garden, dig a trench along the fencerow and install a barrier to halt it’s progress. Then came the real back-breaking work: using his own muscle and a shovel, my poor man set to digging, ripping out the menace by it’s well-established underground rhizomes.

An exposed rhizome

Bamboo shoots grow at an astonishing rate of speed. The massive stalks are anchored by node clusters often larger than a human head and a network of rhizomes interwoven into a dense, iron-hard system which seems to mock human removal efforts.

The 20-year-old bamboo forest next door has slowly but steadily encroached upon their yard, engulfing trees and bushes as it grows.

As I’ve offered my paltry help to my husband in bamboo removal, it’s really kept me mindful of a similar battle: my war against sin.

A new shoot tops six feet in mere days

Sin is the bamboo of my heart. In my younger days, I entertained it, fascinated by it’s apparent charm. Little did I know, the peaceful-seeming enchantment on the other side of the fence was already penetrating my heart with subtle but inexorable roots.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed 
by his own desire. 
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, 
and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
(James 1:14-15)

Before I knew it, shoots were sprouting up all around me, fencing me in. What had started as a momentary glance at someone else’s joy soon became a brief indulgence of the mind. A passing thought, a small jealousy, nothing more.

Until it became more. A tiny thought of “what if?” quickly became a central focus in my mind.

At the edge of a bamboo stand

Then with each negligence on my part to quash sinful thoughts, roots grew deeper. Sin became more entrenched. Before I knew it, I found myself beset on all sides, fenced in by thoughts growing out of control from roots I had allowed to become established.

My was bitterness. I allowed resentment over past hurts or even my own poor decisions to fester. One small fanciful daydream about how things could have been, if only… grew into a desire for things to be different now.

I succumbed to the sin of discontent and it sprouted ugly shoots, affecting my words, my mannerisms, my actions.

By the grace of God, when I confessed my sin, He did battle for me, digging out tremendous roots I lacked the strength to remove and cutting away the many-branched tendrils which had wound themselves throughout my desires, crowding out joy.

Praise be to God, I now feel His Light shining on my face again. He has hewn down the thick forest of sin I allowed to spring up around me, casting shadows over my heart.

At the edge of the bamboo stand

And my Lord is still at work excavating my heart for remnants of deeply buried rhizomes. This spiritual exhumation is agonizing and lifelong. But it’s worth it.

Though the work is still underway, a mighty clearing has already been accomplished. He’s broken up my fallow ground and sown His own seed upon it.

A pic from last summer: This was once all bamboo. Today you can see the fence in the back!

By His grace, may my life produce fruit for His Kingdom and glory now! May it no longer be filled with attractive but fruitless stands of growth, swaying in the breeze but crowding out the sun but instead bearing fruit that will last.

What is your sneaky sin? What crowds out the glory of God in your life? I pray today you will submit it to the Lord and ask Him to remove it. Then cooperate with His Spirit through the painful work of sanctification, assured you will experience the unbelievable joy of His presence in the end.

O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; 
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
and give thanks to his holy name. 
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalm 30:2-5)

Wisdom Seeker: Day 10

Proverbs 10

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.

Proverbs 10:19-20

There’s quite a bit in today’s proverb collection about the use of the mouth. In fact, I believe we’ll find that subject comes up often throughout the book of proverbs.

Why? I think it’s because our speech so clearly reflects what’s truly in our hearts. Our mouths don’t cause us to sin; they reveal the sin that is already in us.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

But don’t fret! That is actually a very good thing. Think about it. If the use of my tongue reveals sin in my heart, it’s a gift! It’s out in the open now, so here’s my chance to acknowledge and confess the sin and repent.

So when I bark out harsh or angry words to my teenagers, it becomes my chance to confess the sinful anger I’ve harbored and repent – both to God and to the unfortunate teen who caught the sharp side of my tongue.

I can attest to the fact that this works. Trust me. I’ve spoken more than my share of harsh and angry words in my day.

But the good news is, over the years of habitually using my spoken works as a spotlight to reveal dark areas of my heart, those harsh and angry words don’t come as readily to the lips. In truth, there’s less anger in my heart to spawn them – thanks be to God!

So there’s my challenge to you today. When your words reveal some ugliness in your heart, go ahead and make it into a confession. And apologize sincerely, both to the person (even if they didn’t hear you mutter!) and to God. Then you can borrow the prayer I’ve borrowed from David:

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Psalms 141:3