From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” articles about house painting and gardening and, lately, about bugs. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)
Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
• • •
Philodendron bipinnatifidum. I can’t pronounce it either, but I have a host of them throughout my yard. They’re dark green, shrub-like plants with huge leaves that can grow more than 36” long and almost that wide. They’re perfect for my Plant Hardiness Zone (9B) and give a quasi-tropical feel to the grounds of the Lizard Lounge.
I planted all of them myself. At the time they were small enough to fit in the trunk of my car—now, though, they’re as big as my car. It’s fun to plant something like these philodendron and watch them grow to maturity—kind of like raising children, except philodendrons are a lot quieter and smell better.
One day, in a fit of whimsy (or insanity) I gave them all names—Phil (of course), Phillip, Philemon, Philicia, Phillo (he was Greek), Philm (he was into the arts), Phillerup (a blue collar type), Philbert (he was nuts), and Philanderer. (I had to replant him because he couldn’t keep his leaves off Philicia.)
I love my big ol’ philodendron plants. Turns out, though, I’m not the only one.
About five years ago, when all the phils had begun to really come into their own, I spotted the biggest grasshopper I had ever seen slowly crawling along the top of the fence in the backyard. It was yellow and black and about as big as a Volkswagen. Being kind of fascinated by it and feeling no malice toward it whatsoever, I took a picture and posted it on Facebook, dubbing it “Grasszilla.” Almost immediately a friend from the area posted a comment.
“That’s an Eastern Lubber grasshopper,” he wrote. “They’ll eat your plants.”
That got my attention. “What plants?” I replied.
Turns out, he was right. Would that I had eliminated that first one I saw five years ago, for from thence has come a hateful hoard of heinous hoppers from Hades—and they are the bane of my philodendronic existence. I’ve seen one turn a three-foot diameter leaf into nothing more than a skeleton in no time flat.
They’re also impervious to all except the most potent chemical insecticides (which you can only get if you belong to a terrorist organization). I won’t go into too much detail as to how I do get rid of them, except to say that it involves gardening shears. I look like some sort of looney Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, running around the yard brandishing my shears and plucking unsuspecting Lubbers from a half-eaten leaf and giving them the Marie Antoinette treatment. Occasionally I’ll catch a pair in flagrante delicto. That’s like a “buy one, get one free” sale. (“Attention, K-Mart shoppers—for the next 10 minutes, it’s BOGO on all mating Lubbers in the yard.”)
I know all this sounds like a repeat of the Fire on my feet post about the fact that it’s just their nature; but, unlike the ants, Lubbers are not at all harmful to human beings. (One did jump from the leaf it was devouring onto my chest one time in an effort to escape the guillotine. I almost impaled myself with my shears trying to be sure he didn’t get away.) For Grasszilla and her (or his) progeny, their particular God-given nature is simple: eat, breed, run from the shears—repeat as needed.
An Insatiable Appetite
As destructive as their appetite is, though, it’s kind of impressive. And it’s not just about the quantity—it’s also about the quality. They act as though their very joy and existence depends on turning my yard into a salad bar, even if it results in their destruction. (Which, as noted above, it has, on numerous occasions.) Barbecue chicken and ice tea notwithstanding, I can’t imagine having an appetite that insatiable.
Which is what these VW-sized grasshoppers I lub to hate have taught me—not about my let’s-hit-the-buffet appetite but about my spiritual appetite.
NOW… As a Christian blogger, I feel compelled to assure you that I pray and study my Bible daily—study, not just read—and most always have a grasshopper-sized appetite for God’s word. Right now I’m studying Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts and reading his letters within the framework of his travels. (Did you know he wrote Galatians first? Me either until a few days ago.) I also studied the book of Job a few weeks back and loved it—read it out loud, actually. (It just begs to be read out loud—it’s quite fun reenacting some of the snarky comments Job’s friends made to him.)
Before I started on Job, though, I read through the Psalms, those beautiful, encouraging, soaring paeans to our emotional struggles and triumphs, told within the framework of our relationship with God. But after a 100 chapters of “praise you,” “I’m in anguish,” “rich blessing,” and “Selah” (whatever that means) I kind of checked out. Oh, I finished reading all 150 (!) of them, but by the end I was pretty much living out Psalm 6:3:
How long, O LORD, how long?
(If you love, love, love the Psalms, I apologize—I was going through some challenges at the time that I’ll write about later on, so the Psalms should have been the perfect thing to read. But instead of soaring and being encouraged I just glazed over.)
Sometimes I even find myself wondering how few chapters in the Bible I can get away with reading and still, in good conscience, check “Daily Bible Study” off my to-do list. (Those grasshoppers would never wonder how few of my philodendron leaves they could eat and still be in the Lubber clean-plate club. They’re nothing if not totally devoted.)
It’s not just an insatiable appetite for God’s Word I sometimes struggle with, though—it’s also an insatiable appetite for having a character like His, sharing His gospel, and lubbing loving others “because He first loved us.”
On Paul’s second mission trip through what are now Turkey and Greece, he shared the gospel with the folks in Berea (modern-day Veria). Luke reports that the Bereans…
…received the message with great eagerness… Acts 17:11 NIV
In other words, they had an insatiable appetite for the gospel, eclipsed only by Paul’s appetite for sharing it.
Hunger and Thirst
I sometimes feel that having a character like God’s and a passion for sharing the gospel like Paul are wonderful—but most likely unattainable—goals. And loving others with that same passion? You only have to read a few posts on this blog to know what a challenge that is for me.
On the other hand, maybe I’m selling short the power of God to effect that passion in me through the Holy Spirit by shrugging those goals off as “most likely unattainable.” Jesus seemed to agree with that assessment…
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV
Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV
[Emphasis mine in both verses.]
The only way to cultivate an insatiable appetite for all the wonderful things God has for us—
- A love like His.
- A passion for seeing others come to know Him.
- A sincere desire to be as much like Him as is possible in our descendants-of-Adam, citizens-of-a-fallen-world state.
—is to hunger and thirst for them.
I know—that sounds all Christian jargon-y and esoteric. Let’s break it down: What are some ways I (we—you’re in this, too) can put into practice to keep from selling God’s power to transform us short and go all in—with no reserve, no regrets, no hesitation, heart, soul, mind, and strength, ♫ no turning back, no turning back ♫—cultivating an insatiable appetite for Him and His desires for us?
Although I typically shy away from pat, simple answers like this, sometimes we need to take a lesson from our swooshy athletic shoes and Just do it.
…when you’ve read the same verse over five times and can’t concentrate, and ask God to bring His Word to life for you. Find a map of Turkey and track Paul’s journeys or a Bible commentary written by a Jewish Christian. Messianic Jews can flat bring the Bible to life.
Just get up…
…when you find yourself daydreaming while reciting that same rote prayer you pray every day; stand up and walk and pray and ask God to speak to you—to show you what unconfessed sin there is in your life (that’ll get a response from Him), to reveal his desire for your prayer time, or to burden your heart for some person or some situation that desperately needs prayer. Sing a hymn to the Lord. (“Spirit of the Living God” is always a good choice.) He doesn’t care if you sing off key.
Just check yourself…
…when you pass that annoying person at work in the hall and realize you just mentally rolled your eyes, and actually smile at them and give them the time of day. I’m not saying it’ll be easy—I’m just saying that Jesus encountered a lot of annoying people in His time and I bet He never rolled His eyes once. Not even at a Pharisee.
Just quit being afraid…
…of sharing the Gospel with someone. If it’s that person’s time to come to faith in Christ, there’s nothing you can do to mess it up—except to not even try. (And that only messes it up for you, ‘cause you won’t get that blessing. Just like the Ethiopian eunuch, if that person is searching or ready, God will send them a Phillip [Acts 8:26-40]. Better to be their Phillip and stumble through it than to let the opportunity get away.) Ask point blank if they’re a Christian. If the answer is “no,” includes some awkward hemming and hawing, or sounds a little sketchy and dubious, tell them how it happened for you. People love stories. And the story of our salvation is the greatest story we can tell. You can read mine here.
“Just do it” means me, too
But in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to ask myself: am I following my own advice?
(Hem…haw…) Sometimes. (That sounded a little sketchy and dubious.)
Accept for that “how long?” Psalms catastrophe, prayer and Bible study are good. And the whole “greatest of these is love” piece is improving. (I stood in the grocery checkout line behind an unprepared check writer this afternoon without rolling my eyes. I just entertained myself by counting all the pictures of the Kardashians and Jenners on the covers of all the gossip magazines.)
Sharing the plan of salvation with someone still needs work, though. I can do it here on the blog, and it’s great that God has given me this forum, but when I’m face-to-face with someone who desperately needs Jesus I can’t sit down and write it out, edit it a little, cut and paste some Bible verses, and search Google…
Although Googling “how to share the gospel” and distracting myself with the Kardashians work for now, I know that if I truly “hunger and thirst” that one day I won’t need those crutches—my favorite Bible verse promises that:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV
My grasshopper-sized spiritual appetite God began in me six years ago (A.K.A. “a good work”) gets bigger and closer to completion every day. It’s almost as though my very joy and existence depends on it, even if it results in my destruction.
And one day it might…
For now, though, I need to go grab my shears and snatch some lubbers out of Chez Philodendron.
They’ve had one too many trips to the salad bar…