I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] – John 16:33, Amplified Bible
If you have a garden – at least one that’s here in beautiful Wake Forest in North Carolina – then there are going to be weeds. If we didn’t want any weeds then we would live in a condo, or an apartment, with some potted plants and a patio. But then we wouldn’t have all these amazing trees, or this lovely view and the swath of a thousand shades of green.
In a few short weeks, Rebekah and I will have been married forty years. It’s pretty much been the theme of our life together that we’re all about, glamorous or not, toiling in a garden where there well may be weeds.
We wouldn’t have it any other way:
Back when our children were little we led a Sunday morning class for young marrieds with kids. We were, after all, young adults with small children and it made sense to start exactly the kind of ministry we would be looking for ourselves. Guess what? Our life as a brand-new family was challenging! Wonderful and cutting edge, but by no means run-of-the-mill.
Everyone in our class kept talking about just wanting their kids to be “normal” and to “fit in” – but we kept saying, “No! What we should be praying for is that our kids do not fit in with the norm, that our families are not paved over with some kind of risk-free averageness…”
And of course what we were praying for was a real garden, alive and productive, creative and exceptional, but also fraught with challenge and difficulty and radical individuality, weeds and poison ivy and all. We looked around at the world and what was considered “success,” and we chose to follow Jesus instead.
- Model our marriage after gender stereotypes and cultural norms? Where is the adventure in that?
- Raise children who fit inside the bell-shaped-curve of predictability? Not a chance!
- Work with average, predictable churches where there is safety but no challenge, no potential for failure, no hurdles to overcome? Not on your life!
- Live a risk-free life defined by sameness, upward mobility, appropriate social expectations, and the expected status quo? You have got to be kidding!
The Jesus story always stretches our capacity:
It’s not that we have been (or are) reckless, it’s more that Rebekah and I are very much aware of the tendency of our world to repeat the same predictable, unnecessary, mundane, unimaginative life-cycles of underachievement, mediocrity and vague regret that define far too much of our story as Twenty-first Century people… and, regrettably, our story as contemporary people of faith.
So, enticing as it may seem, we don’t need another boring paved-over excuse for avoiding challenge and new life! We may be at “40 and counting” but we still need fresh soil, tall pines, hot days, rain, storms, challenges, difficulty, beautiful flowers, obstacles, and – yes – our fair share of weeds to deal with along the way.
Praying hope, promise, and the adventure of redemption for every one of you – DEREK