Friday, November 9, 2018 comes the rain

When we first moved to the farm, I tried to grow a garden. I had big plans for fresh veggies, and I planted a lot: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and honeydew. The lady we bought the property from had scattered seed for lettuce.

I harvested a handful of tomatoes, a single head of broccoli, maybe two honeydews, and a lot of the lettuce...the one thing that I didn't plant.

I guess I should have known how it would work out. When I was in school I helped my mom plant flower bulbs along our front walk. Not a single thing that I planted even so much as sprouted.

Mom told me that I have a "black thumb" instead of a green there's that.

It hasn't changed a lot as I've gotten older. I killed a cactus. I've had a peace lily and a pothos both die at my hand (yes, I know--the easiest house plants to grow).

I don't know a whole lot about growing plants, but I do know one thing: if you want a plant to grow, you need to water it.

Growth. It is something all of us want. We want our faith to grow stronger, but we tend to want that to happen through times of ease and peace. We want the sunny skies to make us grow, but we forget that the rain is required every bit as much as the sun.

"Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith,
we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God
through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.
 Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace
where we are able to celebrate the hope
of experiencing God’s glory.
 And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering
because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance,
 which shapes our characters.
When our characters are refined,
we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. 
And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need
because the Holy Spirit that was given to us
has flooded our hearts with God’s love."
Romans 5:1-5

"Seasons of suffering"--the rain in our lives that lead to growth. It's the hard times that sink into us, that get to our roots and sink into our core. When the rains come, they teach us to endure (or persevere, which is probably the word you're more used to hearing in that passage).

When we learn to endure, that's what changes our character. I don't know about you, but I haven't mastered the concept of celebrating in my sufferings. I struggle with my focus--I see the storm instead of remembering that the rain brings growth.

I want to be someone of character, someone who can be counted on to do what God wants no matter the circumstances. Here's the issue, though--to make sure you will do what God wants in every circumstance, you have to actually be put into those circumstances and required to make a choice about what to do.

That's the part that's not so much fun.

It's easy to say that I will trust God with my life when I haven't had to rely on Him to preserve it. It was easy to say that I trusted God's plan for my brother in Iraq...before that plan was revealed to those of us who were left behind here. It's easy to say that I trust God to have a plan for my life until my future doesn't play out quite as I expected.

The only way I can be known for the character I want to be known for is if I develop that character. As Helen Keller said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

And here's the real kicker: the development of our character isn't even the end goal. We learn to endure so that we can develop character, but then we still have to go a step further.

Character has to be refined.

When you refine something, you get rid of any impurities in it. For a lot of things, that means putting it through the fire.

Even after I develop the character that I want to be known for, that character still needs to be refined. God wants to rid me of all the impurities in my heart and mind. He wants to burn off all the doubts, fears, and self-reliance. He wants me to fully trust in Him, no matter what gets thrown my way. He doesn't want me to be swayed by my circumstances.

Dear God, help me to remember that rain leads to growth. Help me to see the challenges in my life as opportunities to endure and to develop the character You want to see in me, the type of character that points to You. Keep me on my toes, so that I don't slide into complacency. Remind me that You are there with me, even when the refinement fires come. Keep me focused on You, no matter my circumstances...and thank You for not giving up on me when I mess up.

Parents, step up

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