Friday, June 17, 2016

The Importance of Understanding the Directions

I've been on a quest to restore the manicured look to my yard for the last week, but it's a losing proposition. To be perfectly honest, I've never actually achieved the manicured look. At best, I've had the barely-tamed look. Lately, though, the weeds and vines have been winning.

The holly tree, located in a ridiculous spot between two lovely oak trees, has always been an irritation to me. It's a fast-grower and obscures the view of the lake when it gets above shoulder height. Pruning is a constant challenge. If you get close enough to prune it, the leaves scratch you to shreds.

I decided the problem called for a Yard-Helper. Yesterday afternoon, I accompanied Yard Helper, complete with long pruning clippers, to the holly tree. 

I'm not saying that I'm a perfect direction-giver, but I have spent most of three decades giving doctors' orders. In a manner of speaking, I've made a career of giving directions.

Yesterday, however, you couldn't have told it by the results.

"This holly tree is too tall, and I can't see the lake. I don't want it any higher than your shoulder." To make the instructions perfectly clear, I put a hand at Yard-Helper's shoulder. "Right here. No higher. Trim these limbs as much as you need to, but I don't want anything above here."

Yard-Helper trimmed the holly tree. He worked for hours, and was so proud of the results. There was an enormous pile of limbs on the ground, which you may be able to see from the picture. It will take a pickup to carry them away.

When I went to inspect his work, I was momentarily speechless. He had trimmed as many limbs as he could, but had trimmed nothing above his shoulder level.

I now have a lollipop holly bush. It still obscures the view of the lake. 

Today, I'm getting out the chain saw.

The problem was not so much in the directions (although I'm willing to admit that the last few words might have been unclear...) The problem was in the listening. Yard-Helper assumed he already knew what I wanted from the start. 

"I'm gonna trim it back so you can see through the branches."

"No. I want it cut way back. Nothing above shoulder height."

The results of our failure to communicate are disheartening. As I stared at the lollipop holly, I wondered if God has as much trouble communicating with me. It didn't take long to know the answer to that question. Yes, unfortunately, He does.

My problem is the same one Yard-Helper has. I've usually already made a plan of my own.

As it turns out, God doesn't need my plan. He wants His own, because it's always better. His plans are designed to accomplish His purposes while helping me to become more like Him. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb

It's only when I want His will more than mine that I can begin to be the disciple He intended. This requires the kind of surrender Jesus demonstrated at Gethsemane. 

Thy will be done, all-in, no holding back, surrender.

That kind of surrender doesn't just happen. For me, it begins by being quiet and listening for that still, small Voice. Checking it against Scripture. Once I know God's will, the right thing to do would be to instantly obey.

I wish I always did that, but I don't. I struggle with the plan. Agonize over it. Try to determine the outcome at the start. The problem, of course, is that God's will is always best, but it doesn't always look like it at the time. 

Loving my neighbor as myself sounds great in theory, but it's not quite as attractive when God asks me to love a neighbor who's antagonistic to me. Love a neighbor by giving more than I want to give. Love a neighbor by sacrificing me-time for their needs. 

When I try to adapt His plan to my will, it never turns out the way it should. 

Maybe you have that problem, too.

Today, I'm reminding myself of Jeremiah 29:11 and that silly-looking holly tree. God has a perfect plan, and it benefits me more than I will ever understand. Even when I can't see how it will work out.

My job isn't to give the directions. My job is to follow His.

So let's follow. Let's love God the most today, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. If we manage that, we'll have made a good start.
In case you missed it, here's a link to yesterday's post: A Merry Heart is Good Medicine

#disciple #obedience #pruningholly