“Ughhh Mum, don't say that!” she replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
Aren't people so perceptive from such a young age?! She was right… I had been giving her that same line when she showed me her pictures, for the last few weeks! Even my four-year-old knew that what I had to say wasn't anything particularly… fresh!
I'll be the first to admit I don't have a green thumb… I kill almost all the plants I try to nurture (even cactuses)! Sometimes I'm too anxious over them, or too busy and neglect them, or I just don't take the time to learn about how to take care of them, so I treat them all the same. Funnily enough, I've found I can be like that with people too. Now, I've taken to keeping mostly fake plants in our house, because they're just so much easier than real ones! But in a way our hearts and spiritual lives, including our relationship with God and others, are a bit like a garden… they need keeping fresh.
With God, everything is alive! After all, He is the living God! Isn't it wonderful that He placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and their job was to take care of it? It was alive! The whole thing! It was full of plants and animals… fruit, vegetables, flowers, bugs, birds, everything was alive! And the living things they ate, like fruits and vegetables, nourished their bodies and kept them healthy and growing. God loved to walk with them in the garden too… how beautiful and fresh. The bible just seems to be full of stories about gardens, trees, grass, fruit… things that are alive and growing! Every day, the garden of our heart needs tending too… it needs watering with His Spirit, it needs the good soil of His Word, and the sunlight of His daily presence.
John 15: 4-5 “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. The branch cannot itself produce fruit, unless it abides on the vine. Likewise, you cannot produce fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Many times, I have let my relationship with God go stale… I've gotten into repetitive habits of prayer that were more like going through the motions than attentive listening and sharing my heart, I've been reading the bible with my dusty old “yesterday” glasses on, and having patterns of thinking that were run-over with weeds of unbelief or legalism, choking out the good plants. The scary thing is, not only does it affect me, but it affects the people around me. When someone needed comfort, all I had to give them were stale platitudes. When someone needed a sensitive ear, all I had was “let me tell you all the memorised answers”. When someone had a spiritual need, all I could see was a physical hassle. I was on auto-pilot… I had forgotten to abide. Without abiding, I'm like a fake plant in a way… I can't produce fruit, I can't nourish anyone, I can't decontaminate the air or produce oxygen. Without abiding, I can do nothing.
When we abide in Him, even the same-old-things can become fresh again! I remember when my Mum had just passed away… I was so overcome with grief. I knew that “she was in a better place now” and, “I'll see her again some day”, but for some reason those things just didn't seem to comfort me during that season. I started to wrestle with God about why those statements, though true and factual, didn't seem to help. He didn't really answer me at the time, until one day… I was just going about the housework, when suddenly God gave me a totally new way of thinking about it… we are all like runners in a race in the Christian life, just like Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 9, and some of those runners He plucks out early and places them at the finish line to cheer the others on, all part of the great cloud of witnesses like in Hebrews 12! Now that was some fresh encouragement! I imagined Mum at the finish line cheering us on as we continue to “press on towards the goal” (Phil. 3:14). I knew God was encouraging me with some fresh ways of thinking about a same-old-truth.
When we abide in Him, we also have fresh and living things to give to others, things that will build them up, just like fresh fruit and vegetables building up our physical bodies. Once when I felt dried up and worn out, I asked a friend to pray for me. She and her husband prayed together, and afterwards she texted me what she felt the Spirit telling her to pray. It was one of the most refreshing prayers I've had prayed over me! It was for new wine to be poured out into new wineskins (Matthew 9:17), which is exactly what I needed but didn't even know it! It was so refreshing and powerful to have someone who had been abiding in the Spirit and drawing from the fresh word God had given.
Lamentations 3:22-23 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Afresh each morning! How wonderful. Let's keep our spirits fresh by daily listening to what God's Spirit has to say!