For my birthday this year, I visited my favorite Sonoma winery with girlfriends. We took a tour in the back of a jeep to explore the grounds, periodically getting out to learn about how they produce outstanding wines.
Standing in a row of vines, our guide explained how grapes grow, how even the smallest weather change influences flavor, and the proactive steps taken to deter elusive predators. As he talked, my eyes wandered to the very bottom of the vine, and I spotted a tiny shoot growing off the main section. It was delicate. Cute. Endearing. At that very moment, as if reading my mind, the guide marched over to the vine, reached down, and plucked that baby shoot right off. I was stunned. He tossed it aside with a certainty that unsettled me. What harm had that little guy done? What could be the reason for such fervent action?
It’s possible to sense that God has spoken one thing—a change, a shift, a promise or new thing—but our environment doesn’t line up. Perhaps you sense God bringing you into a season of healing, but you’re still aching with pain and fighting for freedom. Or maybe you’ve received promises of new growth,but you still feel stuck, plagued by the same besetting weaknesses. It might be you’ve been holding on to a word about your identity while everyone else is promoted and called out, you’re starting to wonder if you’ve been forgotten. That kind of confusion can feel like a heat wave in Autumn.
I’ve walked down this street, and this exact spot, for the last 8 years more times than I can count. And yet today, for some reason, my dog pulled me to the edge of the sidewalk. I looked down and gasped. My name etched into the concrete. Clearly it had lived there for a length of time, but I never saw it until today. Funny how something so obvious can remain completely unnoticed.
The same can be said for our experience of God’s presence in our lives. He’s constant, He’s attentive, and yet we go about our day to day living with barely an acknowledgment. We pass Him by without a glance. But God on the other hand, He’s very aware of us. In fact while we are often oblivious, He’s got His attention fixed upon us. Seeing my name in the concrete caught me off guard, and immediately I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit prompting me. My physical reaction was a mirror of my spiritual reaction when I suddenly see God at work, or hear His voice. I’m surprised that He’d grant me attention. But why?
My upstairs neighbor has an automatic vacuum. Every day I hear it gliding around their apartment presumably being an efficient worker. Periodically it gets caught, perhaps in a corner or under a couch - somewhere it can’t maneuver itself out of. It pounds repeatedly, hitting hard edges attempting to break free, knocking like a frantic prisoner desperate for escape. And then suddenly all goes quiet. The timer quits and I know it’s struggle is over. Restlessness works just the same way in our lives. We’re
A tall, solitary palm tree grows on the lawn of the house next to mine. On stormy days the enormous lime colored leaves sway and bend, almost as if they are dancing. And once in a while a leaf will flex too far and snap. One morning I caught my neighbor cleaning up a fallen casualty and we chatted about the history of the tree. When he moved into the house years prior, the palm was only as tall as him, but now it practically surpassed his roof.
As we stared up at the soaring spectacle, climbing into the California skies, I asked him how tall it might become. He looked at me and said “It’s anyone’s guess as to how big this thing will get.” And in that moment the Holy Spirit had my attention. A voice in my heart said “Exactly. That’s just like my work in your life Ruthie. Just imagine how big this thing could get.” I walked away and I knew exactly what God was saying.