Friday, October 08, 2004


Walking Tall As Trees

Now, you are already in hock to God. You can never own anything. In our culture ownership is everything; "mine" versus "yours" is the central argument that kills millions. Some confidence, hmmm? No one ever trusts.

Mention that God owns everything and we just borrow it from Him, and it sounds as if there's no ground for confidence. If you look at history, however, you can see that people have really screwed the pooch. The world is in much worse shape than it was 100 years ago, and you can extrapolate the curve back as far as you want. History is a stern teacher: people are lousy managers.

Now look at a forest. It lives on, its complex interactions taking place with no trouble nor fuss on the part of the participants. A fire comes through and razes part of the forest. Trees are destroyed, but their ashes nourish new kinds of fire-follower plants. Eventually even the trees come back, and the various animals that depend upon them. God holds all things in His hands, and the forest is a beautiful example. Prairie is too, but you have to dig in order to see how this works. The grass can't grow without complex interactions of soil and microorganisms that remain in a fluctuating balance. The system is stable and center-seeking, with excursions being damped more strongly as they move off-center.

In one of Charles de Lint's beautiful Newford novels, a shy character is advised to "walk tall as trees" when dealing with the book's elder spirits. Hold her head up and be proud of who she is. It's a very nice idea.

There are problems. Shy people like me can walk tall as trees only while the energy holds out, which isn't long, and it takes a long time to recharge. My confidence is like a snowball on a hot day. (Blogging, by the way, is a special case. It's more like sand sculpture: a short-term creative exercise, soon forgotten.)

So, what's this I find happening to myself? Yesterday I was in our regular Thursday "Purpose-Driven Life" study, and I was speaking forcefully about how God works with me. The subject was chapter 32, "Using what God gave you." I have thought about this a lot, wondering what I'm made for. Usually this goes quietly. I normally don't say a whole lot at these meetings, but I've been thinking a lot lately about timid Christians.

There are churches and people who are afraid to ask God for anything. Maybe they don't want to get farther in debt to God, or maybe no one told them that they can ask. Or perhaps they've gotten caught in the "prosperity gospel," which says that God's favor is measured by how big your house is. All of that is too cheap for God. What he really wants is our hearts. My heart. Once that starts to happen, you begin to learn that everything that has breath came from God. Your debt cannot be any bigger than it is now, so you might as well dream of the moon and ask for everything you want. As God gets more and more of your heart you learn what to ask for, and fancy cars and big houses just don't cut it. They're much too common. God refines the true gold inside you and all kinds of things open up that are inconceivable until you've entered His kingdom through the cross of Jesus.

Jesus Christ gives us confidence. He paid our debt. God sees us, those of us who believe, as righteous and ready for His blessing. Jesus did it, not me. God does what He says He will. That is confidence. I don't have to trust my own melt-in-the-hot-sun confidence. God is trustworthy. I can walk tall as trees not because I'm good, nor because I'm strong, but because my Father is strong enough to make it work.

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