Without a doubt, one of the most fantastic things about where I live in France, is the scenery – the walks. I can leave my apartment and drive in any direction and find something stunning to see, whether it’s a mountain, the Mediterranean, or a piece of ancient history.
Today was a scenic prayer walk along a path that used to be a railway line. The scenery was unbelievable as I crossed a massive arched bridge with a 200 foot drop either side. But along the way I got to see some unusual and curious things.
For example, there was the hand-crafted gate with key lock at the side of the road, apparently leading to nowhere. It was obviously there to guard something of value, otherwise it wouldn’t have had a chain as well as lock and key.
But the puzzling thing was that all I could see were waist high nettles and weeds. Why would anyone guard weeds? Everything was overgrown and neglected as far as I could see. However, going further round the road, I could see that actually it was the gateway to an orchard, where cherry and peach trees were slumbering, waiting for Mother Nature to finish her preparations for fruit-bearing season. Gates are then a very necessary thing, yes?
As usual, that gate stirred up my thinking. That wasn’t just some dumb old metal gate put up to keep out the hungry (or thieving!) hordes, like all the others along that road. It wasn’t utilitarian, rusty and ugly – just there to perform a function. It was a nice wooden gate, pleasing to look at, and taken care of. Someone had taken pride in getting it made and finished and perfected for the task.
And it put me in mind of something I had read in Proverbs. Something about us all being a gatekeeper over our own piece of turf – what the Bible refers to as the nerve centre of our lives.
“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Hmm. Very interesting. We are instructed to do some heavy duty guarding over something that is even more precious than gold, money or precious jewels. Really? What could be more precious than those? We can’t do much in life without them.
Apparently we can, because it seems the most valuable thing we own is our heart!
So what part of the heart exactly is being referred to? On digging around I see that the word ‘heart’ has to do with our mind, will and emotions, as well as our deepest, innermost feelings. The Bible also refers to it as ‘the highway to Zion’ (the City of God). (Psalm 84:5)
It seems that our heart – our life-line to God – needs protecting from junk and weeds and such-like, because from it we get our ‘springs of life’.
Have you ever turned on a tap and seen brown slush gushing out? I have (we needed a new water tank pronto!) It was disgusting and absolutely useless – not life-sustaining at all.
Our ‘heart’ can end up like that – clogged up with so much stuff and distraction, that the arteries leading to God get overgrown and blocked.
There’s an old saying (actually it’s in Galatians 6:7) that says “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
Therefore, not only are we responsible to guard and keep the orchard, we are also responsible for what grows in it!
The interesting thing I see is that, like the orchard owner, God has given us the responsibility to keep the gateway open. This is our own life orchard, the place where our fruit should grow into something sustaining, productive and life-giving. And we are the ones who need to keep the spring clear, the weeds out and the path open.
Sometimes we forget that. We pray and ask for a pure heart, and then sit down to watch movies laced with immorality. We ask God to increase our desire for Bible-reading or prayer, but then spend our leisure time in the pub with our friends, or hanging out on places like Facebook, getting involved in petty disputes.
Is it any wonder that weeds choke the entrance if we are allowing these things to have first place in our lives? We can’t call on God to answer those prayers if we are not prepared to guard the entrance, just as the farmer can’t phone up the Council and expect them to come and do something about the weeds in his gateway.
So, what’s been swinging through your gate and sowing weeds along the way? What’s blocking your entrance? Are your ‘springs of life’ getting clogged up with things that distract your attention away from God?
The good news is that you can clear away the excess by asking yourself some simple questions like: What am I not guarding? What should I be guarding? And, what is the biggest thief that comes into my orchard and steals from my life?
Once we identify and isolate some of the weeds that have come into our land, we can take action.
I’m doing this myself right now and making decisions about what weeds need pulling up so that I can replace with good seed. Why? Because as good as things may have been, I want my future to be even better. And I am in charge of that. I can determine my outcomes.
“How?” you might ask.
The Bible is full of statements that begin with “If you” and “then I/He/God will”.
For example, in 2 Chronicles 15:2, “If you seek Him – He will be found by you” . Verse 12 goes on to say “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord …. with all their heart and with all their soul” (heart).
That’s what’s needed. Right here. Right now.
In a few weeks time that gateway will look completely different. The strimmer and grass-cutter will have done their job, clearing the way to bring in a fruitful harvest. What about you?
It’s your life-spring. Guard it well.