The outside of my house, if you can see it, gives the impression that we grabbed only our most precious belongings and fled in a hurry with no intention to ever return.
See, since the birth of my tiny princess last summer, some things have been neglected around here. Landscaping is a pretty easy thing to put off to the back of your mind. It doesn’t fall out of the cabinets when you open them. It doesn’t clutter your countertops when you’re trying to work. You don’t trip over it when you’re trying to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There are just other things that come before getting to it, and by the time I get to those other things I have one of two kids making a bee line for me, and alas! The landscaping waits.
Photo by Quanzhao “Ari” He
As the state of things has gotten unruly enough to catch my attention, I decided to enlist the help of a green thumbed friend of mine. She asked for pictures so I went around the house snapping away, surprised at every turn just how wild it had really become. It became apparent that when I let this task get away from me it didn’t just affect the things that were already planted- but new, unwanted things had begun to grow.
Photo by Kelli Tungay
Tangled. Messy. Wild. Out of control. All words I’d use to describe the overgrown mess just beyond my front door. There are plants growing from between the branches of other plants; the wanted and the unwanted twisting around each other until the untrained eye is unable to decipher where one begins and the other ends. Complicated.
The truth is though, if I look behind my front door and in the mirror, sometimes things look messy there, too. When I neglect my time with God and am not careful where my thoughts are running off to I get twisted up, tangled, complicated. Negative thoughts sprout from the good and take on new life. The good and the kinda/sorta bad things that I start letting my guard down to get intertwined. Half truths I start to tell myself become whole lies. And before you know it, I’m struggling to feel connected to the One I can’t live without.
Our thought life, which directly affects our behaviors, seems to be its own living thing. The tasks and ‘To Do’s’ we chase after often keep us distracted from seeing that it requires care and continual maintenance, too. 2 Corinthians stresses the importance of keeping an eye on this:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
We can take down the obstacles that keep us from connecting with God by taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ. From good thoughts flow good actions, right? So that means that from bad thoughts…. You get it.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking “is this really that bad? There are worse things….” and talking myself into the gray area of sin. But when I catch my thoughts and hold them up to the Truth to compare, right and wrong become more apparent. The thing is- I can only do this by knowing- REALLY knowing- God’s word. And that can only be accomplished by dedicating time to be spent with God and His Word on a regular basis. Maintenance. Pruning. Trimming away the unwanted, making room for the good to grow.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV
It’s a snowball effect- a tower of building blocks. When you add perseverance, godliness grows, and mutual affection, and the golden virtue- love. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t get caught in the thinking that you can control your thoughts or actions without laying down the groundwork of faith, goodness, and knowledge first.
It’s a lot to realize there are other factors that control our actions behind the scenes. But knowing how to get to the root of these things makes it possible to part the messy vines and start to see what’s growing underneath. It makes it possible to see how the Holy Spirit can work within us when we cling to our connection with God regularly– and it can lead us toward squashing bad habits and changing behaviors. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it casually- it takes perseverance.
So before my neighbors try to machete their way to my house to check on us, I’m going to go and get on the landscaping. And while I’m at it, I’m going to work on a little mind and soul maintenance, too- trimming away, and making room for the good to grow.