The other day when I went on my walk through a local park (while on a business trip to the Portland area), several ideas came to me as I sat on the bench enjoying the view (see previous post here). And a few of those thoughts really paralleled the sermon from 2 weeks ago titled “The End of My Performance”.
I encourage you to go watch/listen to the sermon because Pastor Kyle details it much better than I can. I really liked one analogy he used. It was from back when a lot of us who grew up in the church attended Sunday school. We would get a sticker for attendance. We would get a sticker for remembering to bring our Bible. We would get a sticker for memorizing Bible verses. And while all those things are good behaviors, many of us as adults bring that “sticker” behavior into adulthood. We wear the right clothes to church. We drive the right vehicle. We attend the right church groups or Bible studies. And we get “stickers” from others that we can place on our church facades. However, we do not let any of those things change our hearts. And those behaviors are not done because of our hearts; they are done because we feel like we HAVE to do them; like there is some “check the box” obligation. And we look so good on the outside — like a perfect plastic church person — but we are exhausted on the inside trying to hold up this facade because it is heavy and burdensome.
As I sat at that park bench admiring the checkered lawns, the manicured beds, the trimmed bushes, the directed and flowing creek, and the meandering paths, the similarities with the perfect plastic church person struck me. While the park looked very nice (I was enjoying the beauty), it is a high maintenance facade. None of it would be there without the efforts and ongoing maintenance by man. Left to its own accord, grass would grow unmanageable, bushes would be overgrown, the watershed would do whatever it wants, and nature would slowly reclaim the manicured area. I would compare the man’s beauty of the park (manicured and maintenanced) with the natural beauty of God’s nature as one would find in the surrounding Cascade mountains or at the Oregon sea shore (wild, unclaimed, and natural). The park, while ascetically pleasing to the eye, is not sustainable long term — especially without tax dollars and city landscapers. However, God’s nature and wilderness has a larger, overall beauty that cannot be mimicked, copied or replicated. His nature is how He intended it — beautiful, natural, sustainable. And that is how He wants US to be in our hearts regarding our relationships with Him and with others. He wants us to be genuine, He wants us to be real, and He doesn’t want us to spend all our time and effort manicuring our facades and outsides.
For example, none of us expect to see a decaying log in a park. When a tree falls in a park, arborists show up with their chain saws, cut it up and take it away because it does not fit in the manicured landscape. However, in the forest, that downed tree is part of the process. It might be an indicator of one of the storms that hit our lives. Or of a disease that made it weak before toppling. But it is in the decay of the fallen tree where it leaves its mark but also provides nutrients or shelter for new growth. That fallen tree and decaying log is a part of the forest. It actually is a part of the park too. But in the park, rather than benefit from the decayed matter that can provide nutrients or shelter for future growth over a long period of time, we cart off the debris and stain before giving it a chance to have a benefit.
How often do we do that in our personal or spiritual lives?
This sermon series has challenged me to take an objective look at what outward facades I am maintaining. Why do I continue to maintain them? And what changes am I going to make so that I look more like God’s natural creation instead of man’s manicured park.
…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net