Friday, March 30, 2018

Tumbling along

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.  He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows." (Jeremiah 17:5-6 MSG)

We probably hear the next couple of verses more often in "church circles" than the ones above. The next couple of verses in this chapter say, “But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers; never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season." The idea of being solidly rooted, immovable or unaffected by the worst of circumstances is one we get encouragement from, so it is more frequently quoted that the one I chose this morning. Yet, the Curse comes before the Blessing in this passage. Why? I think God may have been using Jeremiah to point out some failures for the nation of Judah. They had drifted into practices God had told them to avoid, accepted cultural norms God told them would get them into all manner of trouble, and allowed many a compromise to honoring only ONE God in their lives. All that said, the curse comes before the blessing - not as a message of defeat - but as a reminder none of us is above this sin of pride.

Dependence upon our own way of doing things - making it on our own - choosing our own way over that of a life of obedience to the boundaries God sets - these are all struggles with a root of pride. We want our own way - declaring we are able to 'muscle through' in our own efforts, following our 'well crafted schemes and plans'. I don't know about you, but some of the most 'well crafted plans' I have created in my mind have been pretty 'ill crafted' in the end. Somewhere along the way, my 'muscle through' became more like I was 'muddling through'! News alert...human beings are fallible. They lack ALL the resources they need - there are just some things outside of their control no matter how much muscle they exert! God cannot be set aside in our lives in place for us being in control - things just won't end well for us! Maybe we fall under that 'curse' Jeremiah spoke of in this passage - being too dependent upon self or others is never going to end well.

I live in Arizona, so I have seen my share of tumbleweeds in the middle of the desert. The tumbleweed comes from a form of the Russian Thistle - a prickly plant that is out of its native soil most of the time! It actually is quite a prickly little thing, living best in a rather salty soil. It doesn't need much to drink, so it is prolific even in arid times and places. It gets the name of tumbleweed because it grows to a certain point, what some may call "maturity", and then it breaks off from the roots. Now, that may seem a little counter-productive to detach from the roots as it seems to end life. The truth of the matter is that this separation from the root is what allows it to disseminate its seeds! The dead plant spreads its seeds by separating from the root - by allowing death - by taking advantage of the winds to blow it wherever it will go.

I think this is an apt illustration of what pride does in our lives. Yes, there is quick, green growth. It looks like something good is about to come out of what we are doing. Yet, in the end, we get big (full of ourselves), but there is no real 'solid root' to our accomplishments. The thing we thought was 'massively important' really becomes more of a nuisance than a blessing. The tumbleweed actually was brought into the plains in the Dakotas in bags of wheat and flax seed. Because they are an opportunistic seed, they soon found their way from there to places never before touched by these thorny little plants. This 'nuisance' plant has become a prolific nuisance in over 19 countries now. It takes advantage of what starts out to be something quite good (wheat and flax) in order to get an inroad into an area, much like pride takes advantage of good seed to get an inroad into our lives. It doesn't take long to realize that a little 'bad seed' goes a very long way, almost undetected until the 'thistle thorns' begin to burrow into tender places! Just sayin!