Saturday, August 29, 2009

Discernment and Yardwork

One of the most sorely lacking disciplines in American evangelicalism today is the discipline of discernment, simply knowing the difference between right and wrong. The proliferation of prominent false teachers and faulty gospels (prosperity gospel, oneness pentacostalism, openness, etc) speak to the general disinterest among professing Christians towards sound Biblical teaching. In fact, one of the fastest ways to find yourself on an island is to question a popular teaching or teacher by comparing their ideas to scripture.

It's not a fun thing to do my any means, but it's completely necessary if you care about your own spiritual development or your church's health. In fact, one of the strongest warning passages in the Bible harshly rebukes those who do not "have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" as immature unrighteous infants. So God takes the practice of discernment very seriously, and it's worth taking some time to look at here.

But first, some musings on my life as a homeowner.

After we got married two years and a couple days ago, Tricia made the move out to Chicago with me. We stayed in my tiny one-bedroom apartment a few feet from the train tracks for a couple months, then took the plunge and bought our first house. This of course introduced me to a whole new world of responsibility - maintenance, especially the yard.

We had looked at this house several times before buying it, and it seemed that some landscaping work had been done by the previous owners. But because we were looking in late fall and early winter in Chicago, we never actually saw the yard before buying it. Every time we looked, it was covered in snow. Even the day we moved in, there was a major blizzard. It wasn't until around March that all the snow finally melted while we were there (it may have gone away a few weekends while we were out of town, and promptly snowed again), whereupon we discovered additional landscaping in the back yard. Nice.

Here's the thing though. That spring, when plants started growing in the landscaped area, we had no idea what was what. We had never seen what plants were supposed to be in there, so we didn't recognize which sprouts were good and which were weeds. So that first year while we were learning to recognize what belonged and what was an invader, we had to let things grow a bit longer before trying to pull the weeds. This year, now that we know the good plants and some of the weeds look awfully familiar, we can get the evil ones rooted out much faster. And new types of weeds we didn't have last year - well, they're clearly not the good plants we want, so they're easy to spot and make go away.

That's not to say weeding is easy now. Far from it - it's one of the most persistently annoying things we have to do. Getting them all up takes effort, and it hurts, and some of them have nasty thorns, and there's a lot of other things we'd rather be spending our time on, but if we want our garden and flowers and stuff to be healthy and productive, we need to eliminate the weeds that choke the life out of them. It's hard work, but it must be done.

Oh, and the weeds keep growing back. This is especially true if you just pluck what's above the surface and don't dig down to get the root. If you just deal with the visible surface, it'll keep growing back in the same place over and over and over and over and over and over... No, if you really want to get rid of it, you need to dig out the root. Find the place where it draws its strength, and attack it with a vengeance. That'll stop it from growing back there immediately, and just as importantly keep it from reproducing and spreading.

But no matter how well you clear your yard, weeds will come back. All it takes is one kid in the neighborhood blowing dandelion seeds in the air, and you'll find them. You can have a pristine yard with nothing but full healthy grass, but if you let your guard down at all, you'll have nasty weeds before you know it. Diligence is key. It's not enough to root out the weeds once and be done with it. It's something you have to continuously watch for, and every time it looks like they're coming back, you need to put a stop to it before it takes root and reproduces. Know what your lawn and garden are supposed to look like, and aggressively attack anything that doesn't belong.

Oh yeah, discernment? See above.

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