oh, to be flourishing

Years ago, God gave her an image. An image of a sunflower, strong, tall and radiant, restored from death to life, anchored in rich soil, absorbed on the face of the sun: a beloved companion, delighted in the gaze of her lover.


Fixated on the Sun’s rays, she embraces who she is as one so loved by Him. There, caught up in His gaze, she radiates the splendor of His love to those she comes alongside. The Truth saturating her soul reflects off her being. Her confidence in Him cultivates hope and grace, leaving no remnant of shame. Her beauty is His, and it’s captivating. So captivating, that as she is with Him, others are inspired to catch His gaze. And, tell me, what is more radiant than a field of wildflowers reflecting the splendor of the sun?

She remembers this picture as she drives along Texas hill country roads witnessing the budding of life beautifying what was once dried up and dead. Spring, a season of flourishing. But is she, still? Flourishing that is… Where she was strong and radiant, she now feels weak and dry. She fears what others see when they look to her…

Anxious at the thought, she searches the fields and the flowers around her, some thriving others dying, none very close at all. The soil beneath her is crumbly, lacking moisture, and the shadows upon her face keep her in hiding. Her roots are shallow, fragile, and have lost strength. She’s not flourishing, no not at all. How did she get here? The seasons have been mild, not too hot, not too dry, no drought or freeze or flood to blame. In fact, circumstances have been ideal, a dream, if you will. Beyond what she could have hoped or imagined is what saturates her daily living. Even still, she is not satisfied.

She stretches and seeks and strives to no avail. Burnt out, others look to her, so she gives what she has not yet received. She seeks to produce what she cannot, because her storehouses are empty. Her fruit has run dry. She fears the season to come, the heat of the summer, she will not withstand. She longs to hole up and hide. The shadows seem safest. What appears to be security in darkness forbids her from being the beloved companion she is. She longs for light, but can’t seem to catch it. She misses the Sun. Remembering the smile on His face, the tenderness of His voice and the comfort of His arms, she falls, soul depleted and cries out out,

“Father, where are you? Have you left me? I am parched and cold and empty, and I have nothing left to give. Have you forsaken me? Are you even with me? I stretch to see your face, and seek to hear your voice, and strive to feel your embrace, but I cannot. I cannot find you. Have you given up on me? Is my effectiveness not enough for you? Am I no longer worth your time, your thought, your attention? Oh, God, have you let me go?”

Downcast, she waits in silence. Then, a ray of His light brushes her face, “Oh, my dear… your heart has been deceived.” Sinking lower with grief as another petal falls to the earth, she whimpers in despair “Oh.. my God, would you search it, and know it, and reveal it’s offensive ways to me, so I can see.” A passing cloud reveals light and her gaze shifts upwards and another ray paints her shadow on the ground, “Why are you seeking me?” the sun’s rays whisper. A breeze takes her breath away, and all at once the fraught sight of her shadow is revealed. Her stem slumped over, with petals dry and leaves on the ground, it is apparent, the once flourishing sunflower is desperately sick.


“I seek you, because I want to radiate. I want to be gazed upon as beautiful. I want to be esteemed and applauded. I seek you, because when I do, they think well of me. Oh, my Sunshine, I’m using you for how I might win. I’m compromising your call, your gifts and your blessings to gain the approval of men.”

What He has done to bring her to beauty, she has taken for herself. Running with the life, and hope and victory He bestowed, she has forgotten His face, and has trusted in herself to sustain. Fixed on the delight of those around her, she has leaned upon her own strength, understanding and wisdom, and she has failed.


“My God, I am sick, a wretched self-seeking sunflower, I am. My strength is depleted, because I have trusted in myself, in my own radiance. I have come to care much more about the faces around me and their thoughts of me than Yours. I have made my life about acquiring their gaze and affection rather than pointing them to you. Oh, Father, will you forgive me? Oh, I need you.”

From heaven, the sky opens and light illuminates the darkest corners of the field. She gazes upwards, her eyes squinting in His mercy, as she receives His rays, There you are, my beloved, I have missed you.” She catches a glimpse of the compassionate smile upon His face, she hears His still soft voice and feels the comfort of His warm embrace. Oh, what grace. How could she forget it?

Her heart is deceitful above all else, and her stare is prone to wander from the Sun. She is tempted to believe what isn’t true, and invites clouds to creep in and keep her from being who she is, a beloved companion delighted in the gaze of her lover. In a moment of captivation, she longs to stay. To stay in grace, remembering His love and her desperation for it. How will she remain fixed on His face?

Stepping back from the pressure to tend the garden in her midst, she begs for more, more of Jesus. To seek and know and enjoy Him. As she receives and believes, she hopes to share, but not at the cost of her eyes on Him.

 

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oh, to be whole

Wholeness. To be restored to fullness. To be altogether complete. To be healed.

Our culture longs for wholeness. We seek to fill in the gaps. We strive to lack nothing. We search for supernatural strength. What do we fill? How do we strive? Where do we search?

Oh, to be whole.

Over the past month, they have been on a journey together. A journey that she geeks out about, he groans over, and a journey that brought to the surface more than they bargained for a New Year’s eating plan.

She set out on the journey to seek wholeness, to be restored from unhealthy patterns and habits, to reset her body to a way of eating it was intended for, and to see if this plan would prove a diagnosis for her man’s migraines. He, the supportive husband of a strong willed woman, complied, and together they submitted themselves to what is commonly known as, the Whole30.

30 days: real food, whole food: meat, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies, some fruit, good fats all while avoiding gluten, grains, dairy, legumes and sugars.

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To be restored to fullness. The first week of their Whole30 adventure sounded a lot like the Rolling Stones hit, “No Satisfaction”. When deprived of what they normally sought to satisfy, their bodies proved captive to their addictions. Her generous squeeze of honey per morning coffee, his popcorn and Shiner beer, her cheese, crackers and Chardonnay, their quick Chick lunch, peanut butter ‘n chocolate chips before bed and pizza Friday, OH pizza Friday…

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They were not satisfied without. He left most meals she prepared feeling hungry, grumpy and craving. She packed up leftovers each night discouraged, depressed and thirsty for his approval. He spent most days enduring a chronic headache. Poorly motivated, she hunted for work to make up for the extra money she had spent at the grocery store. He wanted to be filled. She wanted to be enough. They were needy, fatigued and cranky. They had trained their bodies to find fullness by way of filling in the gaps with what they thought would satisfy. Deprived of these fleshly desires, they felt empty and depleted. So, she doubled his portions and added carb dense veggies, and he made an effort to affirm her time planning, work preparing and creativity in presenting each meal. He chased after memories his taste buds delighted in that left him lacking. She craved his accolades and appreciation. They longed to be satisfied, to be filled. To be restored to fullness.

To be altogether, complete. About two weeks in, their bodies adjusted, energy increased and benefits became obvious. She no longer waited until the last minute to force herself to the gym for the last work out of the day, but took every opportunity to be outside, active and in relationship with those around her. He could sit in front of and resist a basket of tortilla chips, and crave a burrito bowl. She became motivated and inspired in ways to bring in extra money. His headaches subsided. She experienced a new found confidence, and he rarely grumbled about not feeling full. They had both noticed a difference and sang praises about the plan.

Even so, they still longed for completion of the 30 days. Him, for the freedom of choice, to satiate his cravings with the morsels they’d been without. Her, to see results so dramatic that she would repel gluten and dairy like she did the stomach virus. He wanted to be finished. She wanted to be whole.

IMG_0646.JPGTheir hope was in the last day; him, to no longer resist, her, to experience revelation. So, they remained faithful to the plan through dinners out with family, celebrating with friends, life on the road and yes, even watching the SuperBowl. They fixed their eyes on the finish line. To be lacking nothing, altogether complete.

To be wholly healed. The end came fast, Day30, it. is. finished! He lost 15 pounds, dropped more inches than he needed to and proved to his competitive self that he could do almost anything he sets his mind to, even if it means no bread for 30 days. She comfortably fit into most of her clothes, had blemish free skin for the first time without prescription meds, and felt as if every minute was pumped with adrenaline. He no longer had to resist, and the results surpassed her expectations. They were feelin’ good.

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Their first lunch out on Day31 uncovered opposing expectations of life after the Whole30. In one single sandwich he reintroduced all food groups he had eliminated without regard to the work he had done to clean them out of his system. She deliberated with great tension over informing his decisions or giving him full freedom to make his own choice. He became frustrated with the ambiguity of the program rules of life after the Whole30. She abandoned the rigid reintroduction plan so as not to further inconvenience or trouble him or those around her. And by Day 35 he had lost all form of Whole30, slopping up potato salad and BBQ sauce by piece of bread. And that girl, after a handful of popcorn, a pinch of cotton candy and half a chocolate chip cookie, she also had reincorporated all of the ‘never again’ food groups. The car ride home Sunday night was tension filled and tainted by his headache, her tummy pains and a facial breakout that pointed to the obvious, their bodies were not tolerating the foods they had so carelessly indulged in once more. In bed by 8:45, they lay there, her, doubled over in stomach pain, him, seeking to sleep off the split in his head.  They had obeyed the desires of their flesh and were broken, longing to be healed. He wanted to buy in, to discover the trigger of his headaches, and while the evidence was promising, he wasn’t willing to commit his lifestyle to heal by way of Whole30. She too, wanted to sell out on the gluten-dairy-sugar free way. It was evident her body flourished under these restrictions. However, her fear of being misunderstood, or offending others with her way of eating held her back from confidence walking forward. They long to be healed, of ailments like headaches, acne, and a sensitive gut, but even more so of their sinfulness, of their obedience to the flesh and insecurity. They long to be unbroken, wholly healed.

They long. They long to be fulfilled. They long to be complete. They long to be wholly restored. They fill up on social media, sports statistics and fantasizing about the future. They set their hope in the way they influence and are adored. They are weary from running, from fighting, from suffering in this world. They want to be finished, to be free, to be victorious. They medicate with happy hour, a shopping spree and half priced baked goods on Saturday night. Oh, to be full. Oh, to be complete. Oh, to be healed.

They long for wholeness. They were created for it. The Jesus Storybook Bible describes it this way, “… And Adam and Eve joined in the song of the stars and the streams and wind in the trees, the wonderful song of love to the one who made them. Their hearts were filled with happiness. And nothing ever made them sad or lonely or sick or afraid. God looked at everything he had made. ‘Perfect!’ he said. And it was.” Perfection. Completion. Wholeness. It was what they were created for, and then things went wrong. They doubted God’s love for them, and they ran far away from him. They separated themselves from His perfection, from a life that was whole. They broke down, fell apart, and had no way of attaining wholeness on their own. They needed a rescuer, a Savior. And God so loved them, that He sent Jesus. Jesus brought healing to those who were broken. He brought hope to those in despair. He lived perfectly with God. And though He was perfect, He was put to death unjustly to bear the separation from wholeness that they deserve. Yet, death had no hold on Him, and rose from the grave to restore a way back to wholeness. And whoever shall believe in Him, will not perish in separation, but will walk in newness, in completion, in healing, in wholeness.

He has fulfilled. He has finished. He has healed.

They are whole.

One Whole30 down, and a long joy filled journey to go, ‘They fix their eyes on their creator, and seek Him who began a good work in them promising to bring it to completion. They submit unto the author and perfecter of their faith, the one who proves them faithful, perfect and complete, lacking nothing. They trust he will supply their every need, restore their health and heal their wounds. In him, their strength is sufficient. They hope in The Day, in the revelation of Christ Jesus when they meet his face in freedom, and He is pleased. In him, they are whole.’ [Phil 1:6, 4:19, 1 Peter 1:7, James 1:4, Jeremiah 30:7, 2 Cor. 12:9]

And from that reality, they will continue to gracefully strive towards practically living out of their wholeness in this broken world, putting the One who makes them whole on display in all the decisions they make, even in simple, everyday practices like eating and drinking.