Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Once upon a time...
...about 3000 years ago some wise men, who were led by the Holy Spirit, wrote down their thoughts about the world and how to live wisely. Their writings later became part of the book of Proverbs in the Bible. One of those verses was printed on the bottom of an IN-N-OUT fry container in the 1980's. Fast-forward to April 2018, some fries were purchased by this hungry mama who had asked God the week before if nettles were mentioned in the Bible.
Okay, so it might seem disconnected on the surface however all of these moments were intricately woven together for a purpose. It is so complex I can't think about it too long-- let's simplify. Jesus is my Savior. He died on the cross for me and rose again. He loves me. He knows me. When I was a kid, my Aunt Barb, sent us on scavenger hunts. As I started seeking the Lord more diligently, I realized that the Holy Spirit speaks to me in clues. He gives me clues to a much larger scavenger hunt called my life. What is the prize? Discovering my destiny, living with joy, while enjoying God's Kingdom here on earth. Fun right?!
Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." Everyone will hear the Holy Spirit differently. Why? Because He wants to speak to you in a way that you will treasure. Like secrets between best friends. If you feel like you don't hear the Lord, there are ways to better that communication. Most of the time it is our flesh getting in the way and sometimes we need to shut our flesh up.
"For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:20
Back to my IN-N-OUT fry container...
In April of 2018, we were getting ready to celebrate my son's 2nd birthday. To some, a 2nd birthday is just a 2nd birthday. For our family, it was defying statistics. Doctors at one time told us my son, General, would not live past 2 years old due to a condition named Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1. I will share more about that in a later post, but my concern at this point was what was I going to do about all the nettles that had overtaken my yard. I was mad at myself because if I had started pulling them out when they were tiny it wouldn't have been such an issue. Now I had 2 weeks before my son's big celebration, not a lot of resources to sacrifice for a gardener, and nettles that were about 3 feet tall. I debated trying to make pulling nettles a chore for my two girls, but then changed my mind when the experience seemed like it might turn into a traumatic gardening memory.
This is actually a picture of my yard at the time.
Just a few of the short nettles hidden in the back.
Nettles are awful. There were so many. Then I asked God, "Why did you even create these things? They grow so fast! Why?!!" After that I wondered if nettles were mentioned in the Bible. And then I went inside -frustrated with the outside- and continued doing mom and wife things. The next week, I went to IN-N-OUT. It was an unexpected moment of solitude. My girls were in school and my son was being watched by his nurse. So I did what any mom with free time would do... I went to eat in peace-and I ordered a chocolate milkshake with my cheeseburger and fries. I turned the fry box over. Proverbs 24:16. Have you ever looked it up? It has nothing to do with french fries. It says,"for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in calamity." I was so intrigued I read the whole chapter.
I came upon the words of a wise man who lived 3000 years ago:
"I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." Proverbs 24:30-34
WHAT?!! JESUS!! THANK YOU!! I was so excited! I asked a question. I just said something out loud --I didn't even close my eyes or fold my hands. AND HE ANSWERED! Nettles ARE in the Bible. To top it off He answered while I was enjoying myself drinking a chocolate milkshake.
Is that verse saying I'm lazy and lacking sense because I let the nettles take over the yard?! I dug a little deeper. God was giving me a clue. A clue about my life. At that moment He wasn't really concerned about the nettles on the outside. He was more concerned with the ones I had let grow on the inside. The ones I was having trouble pulling out.
You know what I think is so neat about the natural? It relates to the spiritual. Have you ever touched stinging nettle? It stings really bad. It doesn't stop right away either. After you touch it once, you usually don't want to touch it again. It is a deceiving plant though, because nettle is kind of pretty. Nettles actually have a lot of great medicinal uses, so even though they sting really bad when you touch them, it could be enticing to keep them around. Do you know that nettle is actually easy to pull out when it first starts growing? The root has a sharp end, and grows straight down. As I already mentioned above they multiply quickly and they can take over an entire landscape if you are not vigilant.
"For behold, they are going away from destruction; but Egypt shall gather them; Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be their tents." Hosea 9:6
I started to think about my landscape. My own garden, my heart. What was overgrowing in there? So many things. Hurt, guilt, shame, insecurity, loneliness, fear, anxiety; even people - past relationships, memories, betrayals. I was seeking the Lord after a long time of not really seeking Him. I had always believed in God, but I didn't walk in obedience. I saw Jesus work in my life and my family's life, I had no excuse except that I let the nettles grow and I didn't stop the thorns from overtaking me. I started to not even notice they were there.
"Crown of Thorns" Bush
When Satan sees a beautiful seed, the potential of a beautiful flower, the reflection of God's nature-- he does whatever he can to stop it from growing. As dumb as I think the devil is, he does have some tricky moves. He lurks around every corner, studying us, waiting for his moment to strike. As the weeds grew in my life, I lacked the true knowledge and wisdom that is in the Word of God to deter more weeds from growing or even how to pluck them out.
"Among the bushes they bray; under the nettle they huddle together." Job 30:7
The problem with weeds is they attack your roots and they suck the living water out of you. I had a foundation in the Lord when I was younger. My parents made sure of it. They took me to church. My mom taught me how to listen for the still small voice and encouraged me to read the Bible on my own. I went to a private Christian school. I went to AWANA and competed in all the Bible Quiz Competitions. I served in my youth group by leading Bible studies and I went on mission trips to build houses and an orphanage in Mexico. I even joined the Christian club at my high school. Even in the midst of what I see now as a facade of 'religious duty,' that resulted in some heavy shame and guilt, I really did love the Lord. I was a beautiful rose growing for Jesus. The accuser saw me in the midst of the field and decided to send some weeds my way. At first they didn't look like weeds. Sometimes those weeds were really nice people sent my way who shared similar weaknesses. Instead of directing one another to the Lord, we ran away together. In that running away, I tripped on some pretty sharp thorns that wrapped me up for a long time.
"Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses." Isaiah 34:13
The longer you wait to pull the bad habits, attitudes, or even people out of your life as the Holy Spirit leads you, the more painful it is to get them out. When you wait too long, it becomes too difficult to pull them out yourself. You need professional help. A master gardener. Calling the gardener requires self sacrifice.
At a time when I almost couldn’t live anymore, surviving as a shriveled, broken, really sad flower, I chose to let go of my pride and I surrendered my desire to try and grow on my own. I reached out to the best gardener I knew. God created the first garden- so of course He was first on the list. The process was hard work and it was painful. When I started to let Jesus cut the thorns away and pull out the 'dagger-like' nettles from my heart, I started to feel more alive and the pain seemed worth it. Immediately after I cried out for help, I was able to start soaking up the living water that was being stolen from me.
Jesus saved me from the thorns and helped me rise above the nettles. He wore those thorns for me. Jesus is teaching me now through those wise men that lived so long ago that it is easier to pluck out the weeds when they first start to grow. He is teaching me through His Word how to identify those weeds from potential beautiful flowers and which flowers He wants me to concentrate on watering. All the while, He continues to water me with His love and the more I call upon my Master Gardener the more beautiful I become.