Into the Desert
Okay serious question guys: when did succulents become such a big deal?
Because doesn't it seem like every gal has one or at least Instagrammed one?
Honestly, what was the point everyone decided they were this insanely cute phenomenon??
I mean, don't get me wrong, they are totally cute. I just jumped onto this bandwagon myself and bought my very first one.
And even though it's actually just a tiny 3-inch plant, I'm sincerely sitting here saying that I learned something from my little succulent (which I named Barb by the way because #JusticeForBarb)
Side note: If you have not watched Stranger Things yet, I would 10/10 recommend hopping on that bandwagon ASAP.
So, I have literally never cared for a plant of my own. I had heard that succulent care is different than the watering process for other plants. As a non-expert plant mom, I didn't want Barb to die soon because of my lack of succulent knowledge.
So I thought: How many times do I need to be watering little Barb?
Here's what I gathered from my Google search:
Many succulents come from dry areas like the desert. High temperatures and low precipitation force plants to collect and store water to survive long dry periods.
When it rains in the desert, succulents quickly take in large amounts of water through their roots. The inside of a succulent is like a sponge, so it can hold a ton of water. They can store water in various structures, such as their leaves and stems.
In fact, some forms of cacti and succulents can hold up to 2,000 pounds of water. (Crazy, right?!) They survive off this water during dry periods without rain.
When you're watering a succulent you should be soaking it, so that it can store the water up for drier days.
How cool that these little plants are conditioned to store water for dry seasons! They survive in a place that seems so unlike a "lively" place: the desert.
As I thought about how interesting their biology and their strength is, I remembered this verse:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her." -Hosea 2:14 ESV
Some translations say, "I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there."
In this passage, the Lord is talking about His mercy for Israel after their continuous unfaithfulness. The book of Hosea illustrates the spiritual adultery of Israel and God's enduring grace toward them.
A commentary on this passage adds that Israel, like us would not choose to go into the wilderness voluntarily. It is a place far too barren for them to enter, unless they were to be allured by the grace and power of God.
He allures and they follow, but He doesn't tell them where He's taking them. But it is in that solitude of the desert that He speaks to the soul.
Sometimes when the Lord brings us into a desert, He's bringing us into a place separated from everyone but Himself. It may be a place we only see as barren- a place full of trial and affliction. It may be a place where sin and unbelief rise to the surface of our lives.
However, it is in the desert, we are stripped of all our own righteousness. It is in the desert, we can more clearly see our indispensable need of the Lord.
So how do we not shrivel up in the droughts of the desert?
We soak our hearts in Jesus Christ, our spring of water.
"But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”- John 4:14
Here's one thing I'm learning this month: in order to get saturated, we should seek to more closely study the nature of God. We have the God-given gift of His precious words in the Bible, and it is such a direct way to look at theology.
We should stop treating our spiritual lives like they just need a light spritz of His Word- you know, just to kind of "get by."
Part of my residency with For the City this year involves taking a 9-month course called the Men and Women's Development Program (MWDP).
The Austin Stone Institute describes it as, "a church-based higher-education program built to train men & women for biblically qualified leadership in the home, church, city and world."
It involves intense theological study- think predestination, the Trinity, God's Will, etc. Most of my reading for it comes from this tiny little book called Systematic Theology.
lol jk. It's a monster of a book.
Over 1,200 pages of theology!
Now, I'm low-key a little bit of a nerd; I LOVE learning. But, even for my book-loving heart, the course seemed a little intimidating.
On our first night of class, they told us, "Okay guys, you're in for some challenging months. You may hear things that are confusing to you, things you may have difficulty believing, things you may not want to believe are true about God."
While the course has been challenging, the point of it is not to pull us further from Christ, but to bring to light some areas where we can grow in knowledge, and I've already realized some crucial growth areas.
Realization number one: We have to desire to know God deeply. Don't stop at conversion. We should constantly be breaking through the surface to know Him more.
Kevin Peck, Lead Pastor of the Austin Stone, gave such a great illustration of our surface-level love for God at one of our first MWDP classes.
He described prepping a beautiful evening for him and his wife's 15th anniversary. He found a babysitter for their kids, set up candles, prepared the music, a delicious meal- all the works. They sat down for dinner, romantic mood setting in. When suddenly, somewhere through the meal, his wife stopped.
"Kevin, I have something I need to share with you about myself. We've been together for 15 years, and I just don't want to keep things from you. What I'm going to tell you may make you uncomfortable. It may not make you happy. However, I still need to share this about myself," she said, preparing to reveal something vulnerable.
At this point in the story, Kevin stops and says to us:
"What if I had looked at her and said, "NAHHH. I don't wanna hear it. I don't care to know even more about you."
How awkward right?
(for the record, he didn't actually do that)
But see sometimes we totally do that to the Lord- sometimes in the daily rejection of spending time knowing Him through His Word, sometimes in the rejection to sincerely gain a deeper, and greater knowledge about his character.
I've definitely thought "I don't really NEED to know all the details about God. I'm a human being, I won't ever fully understand, so I just want to love him. All the other theology stuff is just confusing."
In my cohort (discussion group) after Kevin's talk we realized most of us had been guilty of dismissing difficult theological truths because they were too much to process.
Sometimes, we think, "Oh no, my God would not be like that," or, "That doesn't sound like my loving God."
Questions like "Why does God allow bad things to happen in the world?" or, "Why does God only reveal Himself to some people while others die not knowing Him?" simply challenge the way we view God.
By shutting out those difficult concepts, we are choosing to only love the aspects of God's character that we like or understand. It means choosing not to love the parts of Him that may be totally confusing to us.
It means loving Him when He fits into a box of what we see as a "good" God.
This is why sometimes when the Lord allures us into the smack middle of the desert, we start questioning His goodness, forgetting that He is the ULTIMATE measure of goodness. Every single thing that He does is good.
"Ultimately, therefore, God's being and actions are perfectly worthy of his own approval. He is therfore the final standard of good...all that God does is worthy of approval." -Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
While there is SO MUCH we will never understand about God in our lifetimes, we shouldn't give up trying to know Him to the best of our abilities.
The more we know Him, the more we trust Him.
The more we trust Him, the better we love Him.
The better we love Him, the more our hearts will worship Him.
Studying theology isn't just for pastors; we should all desire to grow into a greater understanding of who God is and what His word tells us about how to live our lives today.
Disclaimer: I'm not saying, "go far into legalism and start thinking you have to be a Pharisee, knowing all of God's laws."
I'm saying, let's not fall into this idea that we should grow stagnant in our knowledge of God. We shouldn't treat our spiritual lives like a neglected plant, when we should really be getting saturated to prepare for droughts.
We should constantly be digging deeper, soaking up more.
Because for those of us who struggle to trust God when we don't see Him or feel Him, we need to know what our roots are soaked in.
So when we're not "feeling" Him, we can have the strength to remember what we know to be true about Him.
He is Lord, and He is good.