(from a message I spoke recently at a women’s event)
Picture a garden of flowers and vegetables next to a yard of grass. Brilliant flowers, succulents, and lovely, green, lush lawn bring a smile to your face when you step outside of your back door.
But, then, when you look closer, you notice a weed. Maybe it’s a broadleaf dandelion, horsetail, colewort, fireweed, spurge, bindweed, or stinging nettle. Even the names of weeds are horrible, aren’t they?
Some have sharp bristles and many cause hay fever.
What happens if you leave that weed in your garden or lawn? It will grow and multiply.
How do you get rid of it? You’ve got to pull it up.
What if you just remove the top of it? It will come back, only worse.
You’ve got to cut around the root, and you can tell whether you’ve got the whole root, or only half of it, can’t you? And if you don’t want those weeds to come back twice as big and three times as many, you’d better make sure you use the right tools to get to the bottom of it, and you’d better make sure you refill that hole with good soil and new grass seed or a flower or a succulent—something that you WANT to be growing there, and not just bare soil.
I’ve got a word for you today, and at the end of it you’ll feel a weight lifted off of you, but in the beginning we need to confront something that will be uncomfortable, so stick with me.
When I asked God for a fresh word, He replied that something needed to be unearthed. Now, I’m not sure what that is in you, Dear Reader—that’s going to be between you and Holy Spirit, and it will be different for each person. What I do know is that just like the results after that weed and root have been removed and replaced with good soil and healthy plants, God has our future benefit in mind when unearthing those things we’ve hidden below the surface of our lives. He is a gentle gardener, and His loving kindness makes any correction, rebuke, or confrontation like a tender kiss. What does proverbs say?
A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed.
The wounds from a lover are worth it; kisses from an enemy do you in.-Proverbs 27:5-6 (Msg)
Jesus is the lover of your soul, so if He needs to give some loving reminders to you today, I want to invite you to open yourself to Him. Let Him into your garden and allow Him to tend to your soul like only He can and wants to.
I want to talk about what you’re hiding that needs to be unearthed.
Think of who we are on Social Media. You only see the pretty parts, right? The happy times, the smiles and travels and gorgeous sunsets. We don’t post our struggles and sins and vulnerable, tender parts. We don’t show the world the soft fleshy parts of our back because we know that’s just where they’d shove their knife if we did. I’m not necessarily encouraging you to air your dirty laundry on Facebook or even suggesting that you need to be more vulnerable there. The internet is a cruel place, full of bullies. It’s not the place for intimacy. Understandably so.
But why do we treat God with the same kind of attitude? Why do we think we can only show Him the pretty and acceptable parts? If we truly trust Him, we need to learn to bare everything before Him, instead of hiding the parts of our hearts that might be shameful or awkward or scary to us, and we assume to Him.
What happens when we try to hide weeds? They just grow bigger and worse. The same is true of what happens when we try hiding our hearts before God. Listen to this verse:
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.Psalms 32:3-5 NLT
So, the action step I believe the Lord wants to speak to us is that of making confession a regular part of our prayer life. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at this. I’m a valedictorian at hiding my sin from myself, others, and even trying to sweep it under the rug so Jesus won’t notice. I’ve learned to do this from my childhood. My home wasn’t always a happy or peaceful one, and the summer before 4th grade I wanted to move out of my mom’s and into my Dad’s house, but I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings or desires effectively, and I buried my pain and strife so deeply, and I ended up manifesting so much stress that I got a pretty serious case of shingles. (Shingles is a painful, oozing rash, usually brought about by stress activating a dormant virus that affects the nerves and skin.) So, I just want you to know that everything I’m preaching to your soul today, I’m preaching even more to my own soul.
So, let’s talk about what kinds of topics fall under the practice of Confession:
- Something hidden from God: resentment against Him or others. Something difficult even for you to admit to yourself. Something you try to ignore or pretend doesn’t exist, but it often festers, growing in the dark like an ugly monster—getting bigger and bigger, forcing you to work harder and harder to try to ignore it.
- Sin, unforgiveness, or regret. (Before we go on, let me qualify conviction vs. condemnation. Some people assume more guilt than is true. They have a seared conscience and imagine themselves more harshly judged than they truly are. If a teacher said to the whole class, “Who has put a tack on my chair?” these people would question their own guilt, though it was clearly Bobby, whom they witnessed do so. Their condemnation is not founded, but conjured, based on false guilt. Remember: Condemnation leads to hiding and shame, while Conviction leads to change. I’m probably not talking to you about confessing sin more regularly if you can relate to the kids who watched Bobby put the tack on the teacher’s chair and then feel guilty. You aren’t hiding a sin; you’re hiding behind false shame, but you can confess and be freed of that as well.) Now listen: we all sin daily, and so daily confession of our sin ought to come as easy as giving God our daily gratitude or asking Him our daily requests. How much easier is it if you can recognize a weed from a small sprout, and you spend time every day in your garden pulling out those sprouts? Isn’t that better than ignoring your garden until the weeds are monstrosities that you have to dig huge holes around in order to get to the roots, spreading deeper and wider into the soil, stealing the nutrients and space from the flowers that you WANT to grow? How would your life be different if you learned to recognize, address, and confess your sin daily?
- The third thing we can confess, is anything we haven’t yet addressed with Jesus. You can share everything on your mind and heart with Him, even when it feels awkward or scary. Vulnerability with intimacy is the point. Talk to Jesus about absolutely everything. Hold nothing back. Maybe it’s something you want that you’ve never asked Him for because you don’t think you deserve it or don’t know if He’d say yes. Whatever it is, share every part of your heart with Him. That is what He WANTS, and it’s what will benefit you most. Check out my previous post about Heroes and Monsters for a passage about vulnerability and intimacy with Jesus that recently rocked my world.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.-Psalm 66:16-20 NLT
God bends His ear to listen to our prayers if and when we are faithful to bring our honest confessions and vulnerability to Him. And though we may expect Him to withdraw His love because of what we confess, the mere act of confession in and of itself, regardless of the horror in the words, turns His attention and affection TOWARD us. Isn’t that just the most beautiful thing you’ve heard all day?
“But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.”– 1 John 1:9 (VOICE)
Listen, I see a pattern in Scripture: God has a part and we have a part.
My part: vulnerable confession
God’s part in response:
- Purify and cleanse me
- Listen to my prayers
- Forgive and remove all of my guilt
Do you see how God does 98% of the work, but He does ask you to participate, cooperate, and work with Him? That doesn’t mean you’re saved by your own work, but it does mean that you DO have a part when it comes to living out your salvation for life and walking with Jesus closely, intimately, honestly, and truthfully. That’s called a relationship. That’s what our faith is all about.
Prayer: Lord, do your gentle, loving work of unearthing in me. Uncover every part of my heart that I’ve hidden from you, myself, and this world. I give you a welcome invitation to point out the weeds I’ve let grow, be that resentment toward you, sins or mistakes, or even vulnerable intimacy I’ve kept from you out of fear or shame or just not knowing how you would respond. I trust You, help remove my mistrust. I believe You, help my unbelief. Cleanse me, forgive me, change me, renew me, make me into the beautiful new creation you destined me to be, the person who looks more like You, the person who brings you Glory.
Whenever you see a plant or a garden, or your lush, green lawn, let it be a daily reminder to draw near to Jesus in confession, believing in Faith that He WILL respond in loving forgiveness, and that your sin, guilt, shame, awkwardness, barriers to Him will be completely erased and washed away. Weeding is required not just once, but often and regularly. Let God help you make a practice of it, and watch your relationship with Him grow closer and more intimate than it has ever been.
If you’ve been blessed today by visiting my Nest and reading my words, would you do your future self a favor and slip your email into the Subscribe box so that she doesn’t miss any of my posts? I think she’d thank you for it.
With love and hope from my Nest,