At the end of my driveway, where the fence posts stand at the entrance, is a beautiful vine growing next to the edge of the post. It is woven through the wire fencing and spills out over the top of the fence. Even when it's not blooming it is beautiful, as is arches gracefully over the fencetop, but in the Springtime it is filled with blooms. The first time I noticed it blooming I was SO excited. I love flowers and this one looked like a variety of honeysuckle--one of my favorites! I remember getting out of the car to walk over to the fence and breathe in the sweet scent of honeysuckle.
But there was nothing. No scent. What a disappointment.
Since then I have watched it return, Spring after Spring, and admired its creamy pink and buttery yellow blooms. And every time I look at it I experience the disappointment again. How can something so beautiful be so blank--so absent of the full experience?
As I was pulling in to the driveway one day, the Spirit spoke to my heart about this vine. He said, "You are like this vine sometimes. What people see on the outside is beautiful, as you speak about your commitment to me and your love for me. But, when they get closer to you they miss the sweet fragrance of My real love in you."
That was quite a wake up call. I had to ask myself if I was someone who had a religion, or someone who had Jesus in her heart. And the answer wasn't good. It seemed that I knew all about Jesus, but I wasn't sure I could say I really KNEW Him.
I can recite John 3:16. I know many hymns by heart. I can enter a small group discussion with vigor and clear presentation. I can name all of the books of the Bible in order. I can discuss the fundamental beliefs of my religion with clarity.
And all of this is meaningless if I don't really know Jesus; if I don't take the time to stop and really see the people around me and love them. I had become so busy being a good Christian that I had neglected being a Christ follower. And those things are VERY different.
In the last year, the sweet Holy Spirit has been working on my heart, softening it to really see the needs of the people around me. He has given me many opportunities to ask someone if I could pray with them. He has spoken to me about learning to be honest in my way I live my life. He has asked me to open up about my mistakes and my questions and my pain.
God has also put me right in the middle of a very painful experience within my own church and asked me to open my eyes and really see what happens when religion becomes more important that God. Time and time again, I have asked God to "fix" this problem--to make it go away--so that I can have peace. And He, in His wisdom, has told me "No".
Because I had to learn that you can look just fine on the outside, but if the fragrance of God is missing from your words and your actions, anyone who gets close enough will just be disappointed.
I'm saying good-bye to that spiritual "bait-and-switch" and opening my heart up to following Christ. Not only is that better on the outside--it's better on the inside, too!