Rivendell, a Christian Retreat Centre on Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, was newly opened when I went there for my personal retreat in November 2002 so I had a whole floor to myself. I found Henri Nouwen’s book on the Prodigal Son in a cozy library/sitting room on 'my' floor. Each evening I got logs for the fireplace and settled in front of the fire to meditate on this book along with God's Word.
A reading during Chapel Prayers the first evening was the catalyst for things the LORD wanted to show me this weekend, and so began the writings in my journal:
Tonight during Chapel prayers, the Spiritual Director read Psalms 33:5 and John 12:24”
“The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.”
Notice the connection between those two verses. Generally the thought of falling into the earth and dying brings to mind a cold, dark place but with this connection of God’s ‘loving kindness’ in the earth we get this sense of the richness of the soil embracing, enveloping, nurturing the grain in the darkness…FULL of the loving kindness of the LORD. What an awesome thought!
Suddenly, we get a deep sense of God’s goodness in the darkness, in the pain of dying to self…even being held and guided as we reach our way up... reaching up and out…out of the earth. Fresh growth finally breaks through to be kissed by the light of day…now growing and spreading…bearing fruit. All the while still rooted in that rich soil, needing to be firmly rooted in the earth…surrounded by His loving kindness.
“His loving kindness surrounds the person who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 32:10b) “Let Thy loving kindness, O LORD, be upon us according as we have hoped in Thee.” (Psalm 33:22)
Larry Crabb of New Way Ministries, says,
“Brokenness is realizing that He is all I have,
Hope is realizing that He is all I need,
Joy is realizing that He is all I want.”
As I further meditate on the Scripture verses above in connection with Crabb's quote, I sense that BROKENESS is the process of God’s hand sticking that grain deep…deeper…into the earth. It feels harsh! Uncaring! Cruel! It’s a feeling of being powerless, of being at His mercy. It seems as though He just pushes it into the ground and then leaves this one lone grain of wheat in the darkness and forgets about it. Death comes so slowly, so painfully, there in that black, cold, seemingly God forsaken place.
But HOPE is finally realizing the He has provided all that we need even in that dark place…all the best nutrients in the soil…the appropriate elements for growth…still in the darkness of the earth…but beginning to struggle less…beginning to relax…to trust that God has indeed provided all that is needed for growth…trusting that growth is happening. Rest. Relax. Rely. Even though we are still in the darkness, we are safe, secure and right on schedule…soon we will break through the ground and see the light of day…soon we will bear much fruit…soon…in God’s time.
JOY! Knowing that He is all we want! We come to realize that bearing fruit is a byproduct as we continue to reach for and respond to the Light that is stimulating growth in us!
“Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all to witness them.” “There is so much rejection, pain and woundedness among us, but once you choose to claim the joy hidden in the midst of all suffering, life becomes celebration. Joy never denies the sadness but transforms it to a fertile soil for more joy.” “People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it.”
“Make me know Thy ways, O LORD, teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me. For Thee I wait all day.” (Psalm 25: 4, 5)