The sky is blue. The wind is cool, but the temperature is up so the flowers are finally blooming everywhere. Although late this year, spring, it seems, has finally arrived in Atlanta! So with the threat of frost officially behind us, the warmer weather has sent gardeners like me into a flurry of activity. My grandmother (who had decades of farming experience) always advised planting vegetables the weekend after Easter, however this year a full month of volatile weather pushed our garden planting way beyond that. But this past weekend, Clif finally managed to get the dirt turned, rows laid off and by Saturday afternoon our plants and seeds were in the ground.
That left the remainder of the weekend for doing some much-needed cleaning up around our garden which … by the way… left our kid’s sense of joy somewhat “muted”. I mean, who really wants to fold underlayment, pick up trash from last season and fill garbage bags when there are video games to play and friends to hang with? I get it, but “the family that sows together, grows together”, and “the family that cleans together, leans together” so I insisted that they stay until the task was done.
About halfway through the tidying project, the hot sun was waning, along with everyone’s enthusiasm evidenced by an increase in ‘shade sitting’ and a decrease in work production. As I was closing up yet another trash bag and pulling it out of the can, I called for one of the kids to go get some extras so we could finish gathering up the rest of the trash and head inside. This “chosen” child retrieved another bag, but simply tossed it on the ground in my direction before returning to the cool of the shade.
Now, over the years we’ve done enough gardening for all my kids to be able to anticipate what to do next and then go do it without me having to micromanaging their every move. So I looked over my shoulder, caught the eye of this kid and I said, “Tell me what I really wanted you to do.”
The response: “Open the bag and put trash in it…..”
Isn’t this exchange just like how seasoned believers sometimes interact with God? Often we spend inordinate amounts of time standing still, waiting to be told what to do. But due to exposure to our Creator through His Word and by being part of the body of Christ, most of the time we should already know what to do. Of course, there are situations where we need specific guidance, and times when we are told to wait, however there are a vast number of other questions that have already been covered in the pages of the Scripture. And even when there aren’t cut and paste answers about things that didn’t exist in ancient times (like social media, cyber security or consumerism), the Bible is full of valuable principles that do give solid guidance in handling 21st century problems. That’s called wisdom. But too often, Christians just stand idly by, never really understanding why we fail to get a tailored ‘to-do list.’
As it is explained in a wonderful post on John Piper’s website, it’s because
God values us being transformed and conformed more than being informed.
Romans 12:2 famously says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” But have you ever really considered that the best way for us to demonstrate just how much we’ve actually been changed is by evaluating the decisions we make in the vacuum of specific instructions? The direction of your thoughts and the values that are in your soul are revealed in the hundreds of choices you make every day. I mean, how you interact with your annoying co-worker, what you say on social media, how you fill out your tax return and yes, how you complete tedious jobs that you don’t really want to do are all clear indications of how your mind is conformed…revealing clearly whether you are shaped by the world or by the Word.
So when God doesn’t answer your questions with specifics to “go here”, “do this” or “stop that”, it might be that (like my kids in the garden) you already know what to do. Of course you need to, pray. And yes, you need to ask, but at the same time, you can also be certain of what to do when you don’t hear any answers. In those times, make wise choices based on what you know about God, what you’ve read in His Word and how He’s acted in the past. Once your mind is conformed by those things, then -as Romans 12:2 says- you will be confidently “able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”