We planted a garden this summer. We have three raised beds dedicated to some vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, another for herbs like basil and oregano, and one bed specifically for wildflowers. As I have watched seeds turn into flowers, and little sprouts turn into tomatoes, the Lord has taught me about work—my work and His work. Our little garden is my summer classroom for understanding work in the kingdom which led me to three parables in Matthew 13 that integrate yard work with kingdom truths. Both my hands-on time in the garden and the teachings of Jesus highlight that kingdom work involves three important aspects: weeping, waiting, and watching.
It brings me such joy each morning to walk outside and see how many new flowers have bloomed or if there are any tomatoes to harvest. But no matter how many delights my garden produces, there are always those pesky weeds. Every morning provides new gifts as well as new frustrations. The same is true for life in the kingdom of God. We know that Jesus the King already reigns and is already on the move to make all things new, but we also experience how all things are not yet under His feet. Although the kingdom has come, it is also still to come. It is already and also not yet. So, the work we do in the kingdom is work done smack dab in the middle of that tension. We push against darkness and evil and injustice and ugliness and hatred. But those things also push back against us. Kingdom work occupies that space— the space of tension...
No one ever sets out to have a Ph.D. in moving. But here I am. Ministry is full of hellos and goodbyes. This past spring Chris and I made move number fourteen. Transitions are tricky and can leave us off balance. Change and unknowns often keep us up at night and bring us to our knees. These crossroads may find us clueless yet earnestly seeking His will and the wisest path forward. Should I go left, or right? Is this job offer the best for my family during this season? If I buy this item online, will it be good stewardship? So many questions, so few answers. I lack wisdom, but where do I look first?
The Search for Wisdom
We might look to the world that offers easy advice. Worldly wisdom is fallen and leads to what Solomon calls folly...
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21).
In February of 2019 my husband taped a sign on our refrigerator that said, “It’s been 0 days since an incident in this home.” He was trying to bring some levity to a horrible week for our family. One thing after another occurred and we were exhausted from dealing with all the emergencies. I remember feeling on edge with the thought of, “What’s next?”
On a much bigger scale, Job understood what it was like to receive one tragic report after another. In Job 1:13 a messenger arrives and tells Job about the Sabeans who came, taking all his oxen and donkeys and destroying his servants. While he was still talking, another messenger entered and told Job that fire consumed all his sheep. While he was still talking, a third messenger inform him that his camels were stolen and more servants killed. And while that messenger was still talking, a fourth comes in and tells Job that all his children perished in a horrible house collapse.
His children, his livelihood, his finances… all gone in a single day. How did Job react? And how can his response encourage us in our sufferings today?...
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
When I first began reading and reflecting on the book of James, I was in my early twenties. I was eager to learn and do. I was quick to read a list of commands and rush out to try and implement them in my daily life. I tried to force myself to become pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. I was met with limited success in this endeavor! After much striving, I walked away from James discouraged. My faith often lacked the works that proved its validity. I had a tongue that I could never seem to bridle and a heart that struggled, and often failed to be merciful and gentle. For many years, I avoided James altogether.
Jesus Through the Eyes of James
Over a decade later, I was exhausted and burnt out from all my striving. In what felt like a last-ditch effort to recover my flailing faith, I set aside a year to study the Gospel of John. I spent this year walking with Jesus and saw him through the eyes of the beloved disciple. I saw his compassionate, merciful heart. Jesus was quick to be moved by pity when he encountered those whose lives had been ravaged by the wages of sin. His gentleness astounded me. His willingness to sit and reason with people who knew far less than he did melted my skeptical heart. He accepted those the world rejected. He valued those the world discarded. He embraced the poor, the needy, and the outcast. His impartiality cut me to the quick in a way that made me want to be around him all the time. He was merciful and full of good fruit...