What If…? It’s All About the Gardener
As I walked a familiar path, I pondered my goals and pursuits — the progress or lack thereof, the advances and obstacles. Were my efforts having the desired effects? Were my primary purposes being met? These were pursuits I know God had led me to, called on me to participate in. Yet, while I could point to advances I had made, I couldn’t see tangible results I believed were God’s greater purposes. I could hear in my mind, “If only…” “If only this project were to reach that point, then it would be successful.” “If only I could get beyond this or that, I could really make a difference.” “If only…”
I recently wrote an article on how the phrase “If only” is a red flag for the temptation to reach beyond what God is already doing, to jump out ahead or create my own plan when things aren’t as I think they ought to be. On my walk, my own “If onlys” echoed through the trees. I knew I needed to repent. When I did, God responded in His typical fashion with patience, understanding, gentleness and fatherly love.
The path was familiar. I’d taken it many, many times. However, I hadn’t walked it in quite some time, maybe a year. As I strolled past the various neighborhood yards, I noticed how they had changed since I’d last seen them. Those that I remember being well cared for a year ago, were now more beautiful. The new starts had grown together in a nice pattern. Most of the foliage had become larger, with more blooms and looked more mature. I could see the yard taking shape as the gardener must have envisioned. Likewise, the yards that I had noticed were neglected the last time I was there had now grown more dilapidated.
Just then I heard the Father’s words. “What if…” and all the goals and pursuits I had pondered earlier were reiterated. Only this time, instead of hearing “If only they could have their desired effect,” they were each changed to “What if they were having their desired effect?” Wow! I hadn’t considered that for a long time. I had been excited for the results when I first caught the vision of each pursuit, but the steps are small and sometimes progress and results are imperceptible. Over time I carry the tasks as though all I can see is all there is. But hearing God’s gentle encouragement took me right back to my original excitement for each of my goals. What if they really were resulting in bringing about God’s purposes in the way He had originally showed me? What if they really were making the differences that motivated me to begin them in the first place? Well that would be fantastic! That’s all I had wanted. That would overshadow any “if onlys” I could think of.
Then I saw it. Just like those yards I had passed, it’s not about the plants or the ground – it’s about the gardener. The gardener plants small starts here and there, knowing that each will grow and fill in the gaps. He sees the full vision of the mature yard with each plant, shrub and tree blooming in its season and shaping beautiful landscapes. But mature gardens take time; they take continual care each week. If you were sitting in the garden day after day, you may miss the changes, the progress, the growth and the results of your efforts. But a passerby a year later would see an amazing change in the landscape, much more growth, color and shapes, like I did during my walk.
This is sometimes how our divine assignments progress – imperceptibly on a daily basis, but significantly over time. It’s not about my expectations or even my efforts. It’s about the Gardener. Trust Him to accomplish His goals in the pursuits He’s given you. Don’t be tempted by the “if onlys.” Instead, trust Him for the “what ifs.”
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