Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mercies In Disguise

(Matthew 25:29) For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away.  (25:30) And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. 

She planted flowers wherever she lived. My mother loved flowers, understood them, and they responded to her loving hand and rewarded her with copious, multicolored blooms all spring, summer and fall. Once her annuals were planted, she spent her mornings pruning and pulling off old blooms, humming and singing quietly, lost in the joy of nurturing. She knew exactly where to pinch the bud of a geranium to make it produce a double bloom. Otherwise humble petunias were lush and exotic looking. They spilled over in tumbling cascades, huge ruffled masses of dewy, velvety blossoms, no matter how hot or dry the weather. Mother's flowers didn't seem to notice.  
Over the years, she kept up the horticultural habits she began as a young woman and continued planting even when she didn't own the house or yard, though her back hurt and her knees were enlarged from arthritis. I always thought it was because she needed the color and gentle beauty of growing things to enliven her often mediocre environments. While this was true, it was only partly so. It wasn't until I was well past having reached adulthood that I understood that she was simply living her most basic philosophy - be a good steward of whatever you have been given - leave it better than it came to you.

You can also say it this way: you will know a grateful heart (a good tree-Matthew 7:18) by the good fruit it bears. 

The moral of the parable of the talents is usually interpreted as, Christians are expected to multiply whatever blessings are given to them. But the story doesn’t address how to recognize a blessing. One servant was given five talents, another only one. In today’s ‘fairness-based’ culture, one might feel sorry for the poor servant who seemed to be shorted. A sympathetic group might form to protest that a great injustice had been done and the poor servant who was not only relieved of his single talent was also thrown into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Further, one could argue, “but all the poor chap did was hide his talent, he didn’t steal it or refuse to give it back.”

The problem with that childish rationale is that it ignores our Father’s command to bear good fruit, regardless how much or how little one has been given. Only in a self-justified culture will the issue of what a blessing ought to be becomes more important than being grateful for and doing the most good with what one has been given, however small, however unblessing-like it seems to be.

Looking beyond the long accepted moral of the parable of the talents, does it not also speak directly to those who refuse to recognize their blessings? Those who define a blessing as only that which meets their expectations will always miss the blessing in disguise. The danger in not recognizing the blessing is, of course, keeping it buried, insuring the impossibility of it being multiplied and thus ultimately the threat of it being taken away. 

It seems to me there are those who will always rise to God’s expectations of a fruitful, grateful servant. These are the meek who inherit the earth and those to whom much has been given and therefore more is given, even as more is expected of them. This might mean material goods, but more importantly it means spiritual wisdom and humility. Those who are still waiting for the yacht to come so they can finally launch into fruitfulness, ignore the modest dinghy bobbing next to the dock. And so, unfortunately, they end up missing the boat. 

I’m reminded of something a friend once told me about her turning point during her struggle to insist that God speak to her in the way she wanted to hear Him, bless her in the way she wanted to be blessed until finally He said to her, “I will not strive with you forever.”  She claims that the heart-stopping rebuke was the best blessing she ever received because she could see her miserable self through God's eyes, and she surrendered.

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Lyrics from “Blessings” by Laura Story 

For Christ,

(Matthew 25:31) But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:  (25:32) and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats;  (25:33) and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (25:34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

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