There they are, sitting in the corner of the room. Yes, they are tucked away, but still I see them. The boxes from two gifts I received recently.
Entering the living room, I settle on the couch and my eyes wander back to where they sit.
“Is it time to throw them out?” I wonder.
Both the mixer and the humidifier that came in the boxes have been opened and used. They appear to work well.
They have found homes elsewhere in my house, yet still the boxes sit there. Should I throw them out?
From the couch I convince myself that, yes, it is time to throw them out. Next time I’m standing, I will throw them out.
Still, doubt rises. I have not yet had them for 30 days. What if they malfunction and stop working? I could take them back, but I would need the box and all the packaging.
I shake my head. The boxes are cluttering up the space. The items have worked just fine. Besides, the store may not be willing to receive them back now that I’ve used them.
But, what if…
I’ll ask my husband what he thinks when he gets off work. That will settle things.
With that I push the thoughts away and turn to the task I am supposed to be working on.
— — —
That evening, I forgot to ask my husband his opinion, so the boxes stayed put.
Several times this debate took place in my head as I eyed the boxes. I didn’t like the space they were consuming, but what if…?
With the empty boxes still sitting nearby as I type, I ask the question, are there any boxes I need to throw out in my life?
For me, some of those boxes still kicking around in my head and heart might be the “that’s not how it used to be” comments.
True, there may have been good in how things used to be done. Still, holding onto those thoughts creates clutter that steals from my ability to enjoy the new ways of doing things.
An example cropped up in my life recently related to my pregnancy.
I used to be a morning person. Before 9am used to be my best time for writing. During pregnancy, however, my mind was sluggish most mornings. That’s not how it used to be, yet if I hang onto that thought too tightly, I may slip into grumbling and bitterness.
Indeed, with a new baby around, there are many changes I must embrace, and I can do it much better if I throw out the boxes.
Now, that might be a useful life principle, but I believe there is a more important box to throw out when it comes to following Jesus.
Throwing away those boxes that are sitting in my living room feels a bit risky because it is a commitment – a commitment that I will not be taking those items back for a refund. Once the boxes are gone, if one of the items breaks, it’s on me to buy a replacement.
Similarly, choosing to give my life 100% to Jesus can feel risky. What if I don’t like what He asks me to do? What if I want my old life back?
In Matthew 8:19-22 ESV, we see that Jesus wants us to be all in – no holding onto boxes.
“A scribe came up and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'”
Elsewhere Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25 ESV)
So what about me? Am I following Jesus with my entire life, or do I cling to some boxes that are keeping me back?
Just like the boxes still cluttering my living room, it is time for me to get rid of those boxes that are hindering me in my walk with Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
P.S. I have since recycled those boxes. My living room looks much better without them!
This morning, as I watched the sun rise, I marvelled at the consistency of it. The sun rises every single morning at the exact right time and the exact right place. I am never filled with anxiety that today it might not rise. It consistently rises every single morning.
Of course, there are days when we cannot see it rise. Perhaps thick clouds or fog hide it, but I don’t become worried. I know it is still there. I will see it once the air clears.
At other times, while the sun is visible, it looks different. Smoke causes it to appear red, or smog in a big city dulls its gleam. Alternatively, a thin cloud may block half its light. Even then I know the sun itself has not changed, rather something has gotten between myself and the sun causing the difference in appearance.
Some might argue against the sun’s consistency by noting how it changes through the seasons each year. Indeed, living in Canada, I feel these changes keenly. In June the sun is up from roughly 5:30am-10:00pm, while in December I only see the sun from about 8:30am-4:30pm. That’s a difference of more than 8 hours of sunlight per day!
Added to that, the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. In the summer, the sun barely shines inside our window during the afternoon, but in the winter the sunlight reaches more than 12 feet through that very same window. Also, the spot on the horizon where the sun rises and then where it sets, shifts dramatically through the seasons.
Still, I call the sun consistent. Why? Because it is predictable. A quick Google search can reveal the exact time the sun will rise and set on Aug. 8, 2043. That’s how predictable the sun is. Scientists can predict its timing years in advance.
Thinking about the sun, got me thinking about God. God is consistent in that He is always with me and He always keeps His promises.
As Hosea 6:3 tells us, “[God’s] appearance is as sure as the dawn.” (CSB)
I may not know His timing or what He is doing, but He is always with His people. As Scripture says: “He Himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b CSB)
Sometimes my view of God is hindered, whether by storm clouds, or the hustle and bustle of life, or by my desire for other things. Yet even in those times I know, and must trust that God is still there, just as He has promised. He will never leave me.
Sometimes the sun is too bright. It makes it hard to see my computer screen, or I may want to rest in the dark. I can go inside where the windows only let in a limited amount of sunlight. Or I can go into my basement, in a room without windows, and hide from the light.
It’s different with God. I can try to hide, thus cutting off many of the blessings that come from walking closely with Him. However, I can never vanish from His sight. He sees everything I do. I can hide nothing from Him. (Psalm 139)
One final thought came to me as I watched the sun rise. I recalled the story, in 2 Kings 20:8-11, when God caused the shadow of the sun to go backwards rather than forwards. What a wonderful reminder to me that God has power even over the consistency of the sun.
I am incredibly grateful to serve a God whom I can depend on. He is faithful. I can trust Him.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23 NKJV)
One of my favourite parts of gardening is seeing the first sprouts pushing their heads through the ground. The newness and anticipation of a coming harvest is exciting. How big will the beets grow this year? How many zucchinis will come? Will we be able to harvest the tomatoes before the first frost?
(A quick disclaimer before I continue. I am not an experienced gardener, so please do not take this post as gardening advice.)
I love seeing those little seedlings grow bigger each day.
Soon, however, comes a stage I don’t like so much: thinning the garden.
Often gardeners plant more seeds than they will let grow to full maturity. Because of this, the seeds are too close to each other.
As the seeds grow, they become crowded and begin to fight for sunlight and water. If not thinned, none of the seeds will grow strong and healthy. They will remain half-shrunk and weirdly shaped as they strain for more light.
So, the morning comes when I slip into my gardening sandals and head out for a closer look.
First, I pull the weeds. I mercilessly yank them from the ground. They don’t belong. They won’t bring value or a harvest. I don’t want them. They only serve to get in the way of the plants I want to grow.
Then I look at the radish row. They’re often quicker to grow than the others. The plants are far too close. I know I have to thin them if I want large healthy radishes.
I crouch down and take a deep breath.
I pull a radish seedling. Looking at it, I feel bad to have had to pull a perfectly healthy and good plant that could have grown excellent food. Still, if I didn’t pull that seedling out, the others wouldn’t grow well.
Looking again at the row, I pull another seedling and then another. Pretty soon I have a pile of radish seedlings. Thankfully I can eat these sprouts for lunch. Yet something inside of me remains sad that they will never reach their fullest potential.
When at last I sit back and look at the radish row, I smile. These remaining plants will now be able to grow strong and healthy. It was painful pulling the sprouts, but the reward will be worth it. No half-grown radishes for me.
On to the next row of plants I go, and then the next. Pretty soon the garden is looking far more empty, yet I remind myself that it now holds more chance of reaching its fullest potential. The harvest will be bigger and better because of the thinning I did today.
What about in my life? Do I need to do some thinning there?
Having grown up attending church, I have long known the parable of the sower. The part about the seed that fell among the weeds seems fitting to consider now.
“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. … these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:7, 18-19 CSB)
Okay, got it. In order to be fruitful for God, I must get rid of the weeds in my life. Weeds are bad things, right? Don’t covet wealth, don’t worry, don’t pursue other bad worldly things. If I get caught up in those, my life won’t reach its fullest God-given potential.
Take out the weeds in my life, and I’m good to go, right? My experience in the garden says there might be more to do.
Maybe there are other things I need to thin out of my life in order to thrive in what I keep.
Jesus, after having a powerful night of ministry did just that, as recorded in Mark 1:35-38 (CSB).
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place; and there He was praying. Simon and his companions searched for Him, and when they found Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.'”
I can so easily read those verses and think, “Everyone was looking for Him. He could have stayed and taught them so much more and done more miracles. They were ready to listen.”
Jesus, however, knew the task His Father had placed before Him. If He was to fulfill His mission on earth, He had to move on.
Sometimes I get caught up in all the good things I have opportunities to do. When a door is open, that means I should go in, right?
I must remind myself that this is not always the case. As with my garden, if I am involved in too many good things, none of them will thrive. They will be half-nourished and straining for light.
Instead, I need to prioritize my life intentionally. Sometimes prioritizing includes pulling out good healthy things so that the rest can thrive.
What do I need to thin out of my life so that what remains can grow? I’ll have to follow Jesus’ example and pray about that.
In the meantime, here are some valuable quotes to ponder.
“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” – Watchman Nee
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” – D. L. Moody