Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Bitter or Sweeter

Someone I knew, who had visited with a great number of elderly persons in nursing homes, once told me that we all get sweeter or more bitter, depending on how we respond to people and circumstances and how we allow God to work in our own lives.  The more I'm acquainted with my own iniquitous soul and the more I observe people as they grow older, the more I realize how true that statement proves to be. 

We can either let a bitter root (Hebrews 12:15) grow up in our hearts, as a result of how we view other people's blessings, our own hardships, hurts, or whatever circumstance, OR we can choose to trust God in His sovereignty, surrender our emotions to His care, and take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), altogether allowing Him to mold our character more like that of Christ, making us sweeter and purer as the years go by.  When we trust that He is a good Father, that He will not give us stones for bread nor snakes instead of fish (Matthew 7:9-10), we are able to walk with a peaceful contentment (Philippians 4:7) in the present and with a true hope and joy for the future He's preparing for each of us.  When we surrender our emotions to His care, the Holy Spirit will comfort, convict and counsel where needed and appropriate....He will soothe our hurts, show us any sin needing to be dealt with, and give us guidance for the days to come.  When we take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God to the obedience of Christ, we are actively giving Christ the high honor He deserves in our lives, being single-mindedly devoted to Him in our life.

My sister Aleshia and me, with our Nana, who I dare say got sweeter...
Pictured above is my sister and I with our Nana, Bessie Marie Pendergrass, who would have been 84 last month, on October 19, 2012.  This was my last visit with her in 2008, while she still remembered me, in the nursing home where she lived.  She herself had worked as an LVN and had cared for hundreds of patients in nursing homes, before she retired.  Nana passed away in March of 2009, and has been greatly missed.  When we were growing up, I remember how my Nana and Pawpaw loved roses and had bushes of them lining their home, in their front yard.  One of her favorite songs was "Where The Roses Never Fade."  She told me back in the year 2000 that she wanted this sung at her funeral, and nine years later, I had the honor of doing that for her and for her loved ones who gathered that day.

Where the Roses Never Fade

Music by Robert Metzgar
Words by Janie West Metzgar, 1929

Verse 1:
I am going to a city,

Where the streets with gold are laid;
Where the tree of life is blooming
And the roses never fade.

Here they bloom but for a season
Soon their beauty is decayed.
I am going to a city,
Where the roses never fade.

Verse 2:
In this world we have our troubles,
Satan snares we must evade.
We'll be free from all temptations;
Where the roses never fade.


Verse 3:
Loved ones gone to be with Jesus,
In their robes of white arrayed;
Now are waiting for my coming,
Where the roses never fade.


Nana was a Rose that smelled sweeter as the years went by, because, although she knew it was important to take care of her physical appearance, she knew it was even more important to care for the condition of her heart and to resist any temptation to allow a bitter root inside.  As she trusted God, in prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit, resting on His Word, her beauty did not fade, because, even though she was a lovely woman, her true beauty was not physically derived.  1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

We have the choice of playing the victim (which ends up being a form of pride if we continue that path, drawing attention to ourselves and our "problems"), or the choice of letting God bring forgiveness, healing, and sweetness, using everything in our lives, whether temporary or permanent, for our ultimate good and Christ-like character.  He alone knows all the desires of our hearts, and He may fulfill certain desires, delay others, say "no" to others, or even change the actual desires in our hearts to desire His best instead.  At the end of the day, He sees the bigger picture that we cannot always see, and He knows what is best for each of us.  In the winter of my own life, I pray that I will have the wisdom, humility, and grace like my Nana, to allow God to continue making my heart sweeter and keep it from becoming more bitter. 

I'm so grateful to God for Christ-like examples of our loved ones who have gone before us.  Nana was my last grandparent to leave us on earth, and losing the remainder of a generation in your family brings a bit more sobriety to the realization that our days are numbered.  What will we do with those days?  My prayer is that of Psalm 39:4-7, "Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.  Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.  But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you."