December 5, 2012 by JesstheMess
The cords wrapped thick around me. It had started out as a day full of promise, a chance to watch and delight in my girls at their end of year recitals. The day was not about me. This was a day to celebrate their achievements and yet here I was with cords of selfishness shouting loud from within. The frustration with their childish ways filling my thoughts. Why is she taking so long to get dressed? Why do I have to continually hound her to get to her recital? Why can’t she just sit still while I apply the make-up? I can’t believe she left her costume behind… The bitterness rose up and poured out in complaint and rebuke. I became abrupt, even harsh, lacking compassion or empathy.
Out in the garden I pull back weeds from the strawberry bed left unattended through the damp, cold days of winter. At first glance I wondered if any are left. Strawberry plants, now lost beneath the layers of weeds that have taken over. How quickly this well cared for patch turns to a tangled mess. Beside it, flowers grow tall, entwined by the slender red stalk of Convolvulus that stretch, taller, nearer, looping round and round, reaching for the light, the sky above. The image strikes me, these plants, entangled, soon to be smothered by the weeds greedy for light. I am reminded of my own tangle, the sneaking and creeping, as it reaches for every corner of light and life within me. This tangle that grows bigger, taller, that loops round and round, smothering life, leading to death. This tangle of sin.
What is sin? What resemblance does it have to these harmless weeds that rise up to smother?
- Sin shuts out the light. As the weeds climb higher, overtaking the strawberries, they claim the light. The strawberries fail to thrive as they struggle in the shadow of their newfound companions. Sin separates us from God, the one who made us, the source of our light and life.
“but your iniquities (sin) have made a separation between you and your God…” [Isaiah 59:2 ESV]
- Sin has deep roots. Weeds, like my nemesis Convolvulus, have amazing roots. I soon learned that it is hardly worth pulling back the surface weed if I would not tackle what was below the soil. Under the ground the white rootstalks stretch out just below the surface, growing fast, in, through and around everything in its path. Even the smallest portion of this root left in the ground will once again flourish. Sin’s deep roots penetrate to the heart. John Piper describes sin and its deep roots in this way:
The most penetrating and devastating definition of sin that I am aware of in Scripture is the last part of Romans 14:23: “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” The reason it is penetrating is that it goes to the root of all sinful actions and attitudes, namely, the failure to trust God. And the reason it is devastating is that it sweeps away all our lists of dos and don’ts and makes anything, from preaching to house-painting, a candidate for sin… Anything, absolutely any act or attitude which is owing to a lack of trust in God is sin, no matter how moral it may appear to men. God looks on the heart. [John Piper -‘Whatever is not from Faith is Sin’, 1980]
- Sin is hard to get rid of! The weeds were pulled back and cleared within half an hour. A freshly weeded garden, so pleasing to the eye. The plants, looking so much happier to see the light of day. Yet, already the return of the weeds is imminent. Likewise my sin. New resolutions and focussed effort never succeed in eliminating the seeds of distrust. My best intentions of delighting with my children over their year’s achievements were lost to a failure to trust that anything less than perfect would be ok. A failure to trust that we could delight even if it wasn’t as I had planned. A failure to trust something outside of my control. Sin like weeds is a problem bigger than I can control. While we see sin as failure to keep rules we think we can deal with it, by cutting off the sin. When we realise that sins roots run deep into our hearts, that it is more about trust than rules, we begin to see the need for a solution that reaches to the heart.
Week after week I pull weeds in my garden. This work is hard, it is repetitive, but as I work against these deep rooted weeds I am reminded of the Sin that entangles both at the surface and deep below in my heart. In a recent post we considered how broken this world is. This curse of brokeness affects more than the world around us. It affects everyone of us, our brokeness is not just what happens to us but it is these roots of distrust embedded deep with us. Not only are these things frustrating but we are called to “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… ” [Hebrews 12:1 NIV]
This begs the question, what can change a heart? How do we throw off what hinders? The solution is both simple and complex. The solution is in Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life, to die the penalty for human sin, to give the life that was His to those who would believe in Him. He overcame death, to free us from the inevitable death of sin. In the coming weeks I would like to explore these ideas more. Watch this space for posts on the following:
© J.Smith Photography and ‘illuminating the invisible’ (2012).