So much goes on underneath the surface.
Deeper than the beauty of any momentary benevolence is the substance and core of our being giving shape to its overall condition. If we could slice open our heart, what would we find?
What fruit is being formed from the seeds of life experiences? What emotions hide beneath the skin of polished resolve to present a shiny face to the world? What would the paring knife of introspection guided by the Spirit of God reveal about ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour if we were to come under its hold?
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
We ask ourselves these questions not to be shamed but to hear the Spirit call our name with penetrating insight and knowledge designed to heal us at the center of our being if we will linger with him in transparent honesty. As the apple of his eye hidden in Christ, we know our ultimate good is always in the Father’s heart.
We let him touch those deep places of woundedness or withered determination to grow in holiness with trust that he will never let us go. We come under the gentle guidance of the Spirit cutting to the heart of the matter and helping us see things as they truly are because we know are held in the palm of his hand.
Apples may look perfectly good on the outside. But inside, they may be anywhere along the scale of genuinely sweet and juicy or ruinously bitter and dry. They may have crisp clear pulp or soft bruises creeping through what was once pure white flesh. They may be consistently solid, or they may be interrupted with a tiny worm destroying them from the inside out.
As servant leaders, we desire to bear the fruit of God’s presence … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control … but when someone or something tests the condition of our union in divine agape love and is let down, we come to see that there is still more ripening maturation to occur, more healing to experience, more destructive paths of unforgiveness to be cut away so we can better bear the fruit of reconciliation instead.
When those among whom we serve have a close up view, when they bite into the essence of what shapes us as individuals and as leaders, what do they discover? When we have the personal fortitude of heart and nerve to shave away the layers of self-protection and see the hues of strength and weakness enmeshed as one within our souls, what grating curls unpalatable to our taste will be unfurled beside the welcome traits?
Dark and light. Blessing and bruising.
Self examination is just plain hard.
But choosing not to explore what lies beneath the outer reds and greens of ego presentation does nothing to extricate our weakened spots and blemishes and set us free. Remember Jesus, hung on a tree for us. We go with him there to places where we may not wish to go and find that we are held in loving gaze.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 4-5)
When we look for more than a passing grade of outward productivity to please the crowds, choosing instead to fall into the press of full surrender to his love, to peel away any pretense and feel the stress of painful pressure working to release the sweetness of his love in purer form, a new blessing emerges in and through our lives.
It’s all worth it.
‘Lord, help us know in the core of our being that you are for us. That your love, seeing all things as they really are still says, ‘Let me further in to help you find your way back to the tree of life from which you came.’
Hold in tenderness the one who fears the healing knife of preparation for the ‘something new’. Give fresh glimpses of what your love can do. And help us better spread your good news of transformation. Amen.’