A few years ago, Keith had to do it for me--after a summer of eye surgeries I was relegated to supervising from a lawn chair. But since then, few have come up and fewer have bloomed. Perhaps we mulched them too well, Keith thought, so he raked off half the mulch this past year to see what would happen. More blooms is what happened, and things seem better. Next year should be another banner year of bright yellow and orange blooms.
I have noticed another thing about these lilies. Even with mulch, the weeds still manage to creep in. The first year I pulled grass till my hands were sore and swollen. Blackberry thorns left them torn and bleeding, even through gloves. The next year I did it again. The third year things were better—most of the weeds were along the edge. By the fourth year two weedings, one at the beginning of the year, and another near the end, took care of it.
Some day, I would like to think that the weeding won’t be necessary at all, but I live in a land of rain and sunshine, warmth even in winter, and humidity that keeps the plants green and moist. Still, it is encouraging to see some progress. I may never have a weed-free flower bed, but at least there are more flowers than weeds these days.
How about me? Am I still pulling out the weeds in my heart? Unfortunately, yes, I am. I do not believe the job will ever be finished. I do believe that there are fewer now than many years ago, and I think I am meant to notice that, that it is not a sign of arrogance to see the improvement in my life. Isn’t encouragement a necessary element to growth?
That old saying, “Humility is the thing that as soon as you think you have it, you’ve lost it,” is ridiculous. How else am I to have the impetus to keep going, especially when the job is unending and obviously so? Why is it wrong to recognize my progress? I might as well listen to Satan as to listen to someone say that.
Several times Paul told the people he wrote that they were doing well, that they had grown, that he was proud of them. James talks about looking in the mirror of God’s word to see myself. Am I only supposed to see the faults and none of the good things? That is exactly what leads people to become so despondent that they quit trying.
“Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a goat,” applies to people who never receive any positive feedback, who are always criticized and told they have done wrong. They think if they are going to receive that kind of response when doing their best, they might as well stop trying so hard. Satan counts on that feeling, and too often we give him the opportunity to make use of it in ourselves and others.
So look at yourself carefully today. Notice the things you still need to work on and do exactly that. But also notice where you have improved and gain some encouragement from it. Maybe the job today won’t be quite so tough. If you have had a difficult time lately, that little bit of encouragement may be the thing that gets you through another day.
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thes 2:11-13.