I knew a lady who underwent a tremendous, life-changing event. Her story leave us with much inspiration and much to consider about ourselves.
For the sake of privacy, I'll call her Martha.
Martha was diagnosed with organ failure. She was advised by her medical provider that a transplant was not just a good idea, but it was necessary for survival. Her time was short, and an organ transplant was of urgent priority.
During this time of waiting for her transplant, Martha was struggling to make it. She only had about an hour's worth of energy each day. The toxins were building up in her body and without this critical organ, she was unable to function to her body's full capacity.
Her medical provider wanted to keep a close eye on her progress while she waited for her life-saving procedure. On the day of her doctor's appointment, Martha looked very different than how I had usually seen her. Instead of appearing exhausted and empty, she had put considerable time and energy into looking like she was full of life and energy. I knew she could only do this for an hour, but at the doctor's appointment, she told him everything was "fine" and that she wasn't having any difficulties at all.
This startled me - I knew she struggled and that the doctor could help her address the issues she was battling at home. But she didn't want him to know a single one of them.
I have pondered this choice of Martha's for a long time. And just recently, it struck me why this scenario was seared in my mind.
Just like Martha, we all have an inward life and an outward life. Our inward self has suffered pain and wounds from days gone by. As a result, we keep those skeletons in the closets of our hearts. Day after day, the skeletons continue to decay.
But on the outside, we make it look picture perfect. We tidy up our appearances. All while on the inside we have a fatal condition that is eating up our souls.
Our time is ticking, and we have no idea exactly how long we have left. But we are consumed with telling everyone, including The Great Physician, that we are fine while toxins accumulate deep inside.
There is one big difference between Martha's story and ours. The Great Physician, unlike Martha's doctor, can see right into our inside. Even though we tell Him we are fine, He knows the truth. And unlike Martha's doctor, The Great Physician is always on call - He's always ready to tend to our needs when we are ready to admit them.
Martha was blessed to have a perfect match donor, and circumstances also worked out for her to receive the life-saving transplant.
Just like Martha, we can receive a life-saving transplant. The Great Physician is ready and able to operate on our souls. He takes our closet full of skeletons and cleans up the decaying wounds, and He inserts a new spirit. But unlike Martha, our transplant is free - the price has been paid by Jesus Christ, our perfect match donor.
When Martha went home, she was required to be vigilant about her anti-rejection medication. She learned that if she did not care for her new organ, her body would reject it, and there would be little hope for her after that. Martha had to be committed to a new way of living. She had to live by new rules and choose to change.
Much like Martha's new organ, the new spirit requires tending. The new spirit is like a newborn baby - it is young and it grows and matures. Tending this new spirit requires a new moral diet - it requires leaving old habits and being intentional about providing an optimal new environment for this new spirit to grow.
Unlike Martha's organ, we get some inside assistance - the Holy Spirit helps us desire things of the spirit, so we're not left on our own. But similar to Martha, we do have the ability to choose this new path or we can choose to quench the spirit and suffer a great loss.
When Martha healed from her procedure, people could tell a difference - she had a new energy and a liveliness about her that she didn't have before. She could do things she couldn't do before. But they also noticed that she had to say no to some things that she used to do - she had to be careful not to expose her new organ to things that could jeopardize the transplant.
Much like Martha, receiving a spiritual transplant makes a noticeable difference. But it's the choices we make after the transplant that makes all the difference.
Some will change their outward life to accommodate the new spirit. They may say no to things that could jeopardize their transplant. They may make changes to their moral diet or their leisure habits. They may have a new demeanor that is full of peace that can't be explained or joy that doesn't correspond to their circumstances.
But there are also some who may receive the transplant and choose not to change their life. They strive to force their outer appearance to be joyful and one of peace, but the inward life is full of anxiety. They take hold of new things like acts of kindness, ministry, or hosting Bible studies, and they are attracted to the new knowledge. But on the inside, their need for control and perfection slowly chokes out their new transplant.
From the outside, telling the difference between the two is very difficult. The one who nurtures the new spirit is one who submits her will to the Holy Spirit's leading. She learns through the passage of life a new joy and a new relief that she doesn't have to do it all, but rather the Spirit in her begins to do these with His strength.
The one who cannot surrender her spirit desperately wants to look like she has the Spirit. She can literally become obsessed with striving, putting herself in a frenzy of sorts. She is consumed with appearing on the outside like she has it all together and like she is doing all the "spiritual" things. But on the inside she is full of anxiety and insecurity. The saddest part is that the consequences of choosing this path force her to continue to nurse the pain, to stand between herself and The Great Physician, and to cling onto her old skeletons. The reality is that she is not yet ready or she does not yet want another authority in her life. The great J C Ryle of the mid-1800's calls this counterfeit Christianity.
I grew up in a counterfeit Christian home. From the outside, the evaluation would yield an impeccable and thriving spiritual home. There was deep spiritual knowledge, there was ministry, there was an attraction to helping the hurting and for preaching the gospel. These things were accomplished with zeal and dedication and sacrifice.
But on the inside, the wounds, scars and deep sin were so profound. God's love was absent. The things preached on the outside were nowhere to be found on the inside. It was all a show - a shell of Christianity on the outside and void of the Spirit on the inside.
God in his infinite grace rescued me. The God I read about in the Bible was not the god who ruled over the home I grew up in. That disconnect became very clear to me, and I decided to go with the God of the Bible. I figured if He really was who He said He was, His presence would prove itself with the constant challenges I faced.
And faithful He was. When I left that toxic home as a young adult I faced food insecurity, an empty bank account, and countless other challenges that were far greater than me. I employed George Mueller's approach: instead of making my needs known to plead with others for their help, I submitted them to my Heavenly Father. Long story short, He met every one of my needs... in His way, and in His time. Over and over again, He was faithful.
But what's even more important than my physical needs being met is the spiritual transplant I received. God placed His Spirit in me. I chose to submit myself to Him and to place myself under His direction. That literally changed me from the inside out. I am not who I was; I have a new heart and a new spirit. Daily I submit myself to Him and He continues to transform me.
This is the reason we can have unfailing hope. Because a hope that relies on any human can and will fail. But a hope in the eternal, loving and graciously merciful Father, who paid the debt I owed and then empowered me with His Spirit, cannot and will not fail. He certainly does not operate my way or on my timing, but He has always been and will continue to be faithful, true and purely good. And I'd rather have His over mine any day. I may not understand it, but I've learned to trust His goodness is better than anything in this world.
If you would like this hope that never fails, I invite you to ask God, The Great Physician, for a new spirit. Jesus Christ has paid the price for us to receive this transplant without cost. The only thing it requires is ongoing submission to Him as He changes your life, empties your skeleton-laden closet, and fills you with His unfailing hope. It's the best thing that ever happened to me, and I hope to you as well!
Hyssop Tree will be permanently closed starting March 31, 2021.