It wasn’t until I was pulling weeds from around my fragile carrot stems, that I really understood why repentance and confession are so vital to the Christian life.
My new roommate moved in a few months ago and she was reviewing bible studies to undertake. So I asked to join. We learned we’ve both been interested in studying Isaiah. Some of my favorite passages are out of Isaiah, and yet I’ve had a limited grasp of what the book covers; it has always seemed fragmented to me. Our study books soon arrived.
Meanwhile, God was stirring an unrest in my heart. During the shutdown of Covid-19, a disruption in my fellowship and church habits caused me to look at exactly how much I pursued Jesus Himself. While I love Him, I felt he was calling me deeper into fellowship; to become even more vulnerable with allowing Him to search my heart and streamline my outlets of loving and being loved.
As I began reading in Isaiah, the first chapter stunned me like cold water to the face. God was serious about sin. If He was serious back then, He surely must be even still. Not only had the children of Israel turned away from God in their hearts, they committed injustice against each other, added rites and feasts and adornments to their show of piety. The Lord God called them before the courts of heaven and laid out their charge. This was not to be taken lightly.
I was not shocked by the newness of this concept, for I have heard many things over the years. But I was jolted awake by revisiting God’s values. Has old news ever sounded fresh to you? It was not enough to call Israel His children. It was not enough for them to call God their Father. Their hearts had turned away from Him in relationship, in intimacy. I have heard it said that to love someone is to be turned toward them- in posture, in attitude and intention. But, to hate someone is to be turned away from them. We know God is a jealous God. Jealous; meaning He desires what is rightfully His already, not longing after something that does not belong to Him. I began to wonder how postured toward Him, I had been lately.
If I was going to be as serious about God as He is about me… I had to be willing to value what He values and hate what He hates. This also meant seeing sin for the separation it causes. Sin is even as simple as turning away from God’s voice and filling my heart with loves that consume my affection above Himself. Yet, to confess it is painful.
One day, not long after starting our study, I packed my painting notebook and took a road trip to the mountains. It had been a few weeks of processing life changes and I felt the tears unwilling to come. But in the mountains, I began to voice my questions. A luring melody flitted over the stereo and I reached over to crank up the volume. The flood gates opened, and I wept.
Jesus was there. He sat beside me. We talked. In tears, I told Him I was sorry for not trusting He could provide the good gifts He promised. Jesus reminded me of what true intimacy feels like by taking me into memories of my young adulthood. He held my shuddering heart while I vulnerably spilled out my hopes for the past, my fears for the future. It was a moment of pain for the exchange of heavenly hope. If you have never been broken to the point of unmistakably feeling God’s love holding your heart and championing you for the great treasure you are- despite the mess- you have not known grace. It is often what’s on the other side of repentance. It’s across the table from “God, what am I to do now?” Grace is the unspoken moment between you and Jesus, knowing there is nothing you could do to work off the gift of His love. He paid the price already; He desires that intimate relationship in return.
The song I heard resonated deep inside; “…so if I fall, and if I fail, I will trust your mercy is greater than all of this. And if I bend and if I break, I’ll trust the hands that hold me are greater than all my regrets.”
My little carrots had shot up twice as fast since pulling the weeds around them. And now more weeds were scrambling to take their place. I plucked a handful and threw them aside. And all at once it came together. Growth has two interactive parts.
It’s not enough to water the produce. Carrots (or peas or tomatoes for that matter) won’t thrive on sunshine and rain and nutritious soil alone; the weeds must be plucked. A foreign plant will steal the nutrients coming into the soil. It will choke out the produce and reach higher for the sun. In the same way, we cannot solely feed our faith on Biblical how-to’s, acts of service and even devoted prayers. We must practice repentance, confession and asking God to search our hearts and know us; see if there be any wicked way and lead us in the way everlasting. This practice must become a regular part of our interactions with Jesus and his disciples. If we neglect it, we will grow self-sustaining and haughty, all the while blinded to our impending malnutrition. But, if we grow both from knowledge and brokenness, then we will stand straight and healthy. His kindness leads us to repentance. If there is never repentance, one must question if there was ever genuine kindness to be found.
For the pain that confession brings, its yield of a contrite and gentle spirit is worth its weight in gold.
This was my lesson from the weeds.