I love to landscape. It is both therapeutic and cathartic. Something about sinking your hands in dark brown soil and nurturing vibrant green blossoming plants stirs in me a sense of life and health. I feel "at home" in the quiet solitude of mulched gardens filled with flowers, ferns, and shrubs. And honestly, as an introvert, I would be content to just stay there. Perhaps that is why we are approaching 20 years in this, our first home.
Landscaping takes time, care, and creativity. It is energy-consumptive. And while it often seems like an endless pursuit of more variety, more texture, and more color, I do treasure the moments to be still and to enjoy the signs of life around me.
Such was the case one morning as I spent time in the Word reading about Jesus's encounter with a demoniac in Luke 8:27. "Now when Jesus stepped out on land, He was met by a man from the city [of Gerasa] who was possessed with demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes and was not living in a house, but among the tombs" (AMP). Mark 5:5 adds, "Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones" (NIV).
As I reflected on the description of this man, I sensed the Holy Spirit holding up a mirror into which He gently invited me to gaze. As my eyes turned toward the reflection, I saw that the one I read about was not the only person who had a habit of spending time "among the tombs."
As I looked more intently into the mirror, I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote, "Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death..." (Romans 8:6 NLT). The Holy Spirit gently whispered, "When you live according to the flesh, your mind is prone to wander "among the tombs." Son, there are areas in your life where you have given up... where you have not only dwelled among the tombs, but also have landscaped them. I don't want you to beautify the cemetery to make it more bearable, I want you to come out from there! Why are you looking for the living among the dead?"
My wide-eyed staring into the mirror revealed the truth bluntly stated in the Message paraphrase of Romans 8:6. "Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God." Standing among grave markers of past failures, poor decisions, and old wounds, I tend to dig up the soil, rehearsing wrongs and replaying hurts. Mind unguarded, I can plant ideas of how to "make sure they know just how much they hurt me" and to "make life as difficult for them as they made it for me." Heart unchecked, I can fertilize ambition with whining and bemoaning. And worse, allowing my circumstances to determine my identity, I can even lay down a fresh layer of this-is-the-way-it-is-always-going-to-be mulch. You see, landscaping does take time. It is an energy-consumptive process. It is an endless task.
If you have been there or if you are there now, hear the voice of One calling you out from among the tombs. "That's no life for you. You learned Christ!" (Ephesians 4:22 MSG). God invites and exhorts, "...everything - and I do mean everything - connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life - a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you" (4:23-24).
More simply put, "If all your thinking has led you to a place you don't like, have another thought" (Graham Cooke). You don't have to think the way you are thinking! You don't have to live among the tombs. Child, you don't have to landscape the tombs in defeat trying to make an ugly place more tolerable. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, you indeed can "have another thought." Philippians 4:8 exhorts, "...whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]" (AMP).
As you walk in the joyful intimacy of thinking with God, you will be transformed. Your mind will be renewed. I can testify that what happened to the man in Luke 8 is what is happening to me. Written in the present tense, the VOICE translation vividly illustrates, "There they find Jesus seated to teach with the newly liberated man sitting at his feet learning in the posture of a disciple. This former madman is not properly dressed and completely sane" (Verse 35). The New Century Version says he was, "clothed and in his right mind."
Hear the good news, precious one! As you "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4 NASB), you will no longer default to wandering "among the tombs" when faced with challenges. Instead, you will learn to, "...capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV). You will thrive as you, "...look upon yourselves as dead to the appeal and power of sin but alive and sensitive to the call of God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11 PHILLIPS). From glory to glory, you will "...be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect" (Romans 12:2 NCV).
It's time to come out from among the tombs. "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” (Romans 8:15 MSG). Are you ready? Me too!
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