I’ve been drawn to the phrase, “flourishing in the house of God.” What does it mean to be in your house, place of dwelling, or habitation, Lord? And what does it mean to be outside your house, to dwell outside the shelter you have created for me?
The Hebrew word for “flourish” is “raanan” which means “green, luxuriant, fresh.” My first thought about how to flourish in the house of God is, “What water is nourishing my roots?”
I believe that there are sweet, fresh springs in the house of the Lord, but who knows what kind of water is available outside His shelter, in the places of barrenness.
In John chapter seven, Jesus offers that if we are thirsty, we should drink from Him. If we do, then rivers of living water will flow from within us.
How long has it been since you’ve examined the water source within your life?
James 3:11-12 asks us to ponder, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
My kids describe spiteful, angry people as “salty.” In fact, “sweet and salty” is a game that my children play when riding in the jump seat at the back of our station wagon. When the kids are gazing out the back window, facing traffic at our rear, they wave at the driver who is following us. If the person waves back, they are “sweet.” However, if the driver ignores the cute little kids waving expectantly in the back, that person is “salty.”
There are times when my children call me salty, and they are usually right on target. When my words or my attitudes are unkind or sarcastic, this is a flashing yellow light for me to examine the water that is nourishing my roots. I usually find that I have tapped into a salty source.
This is not to be confused with the delicious saltiness described in Matthew chapter five where we are urged to shine God’s light to the world.
Instead, my self-centered, sarcastic, spiteful saltiness tells me that I have stepped outside of God’s house into the surrounding wasteland — remember Jeremiah 17? I am no longer drinking from the sweet wells of Jesus’ love and grace, but instead, I am drinking from the sour waters of bitterness, selfishness, or enmity.
Help! How do I get back inside God’s house?
If you jump up a few verses to the beginning of James chapter three, you’ll notice that he is talking about the tongue. He points out that it is poison for us to praise God but curse people.
But what does this have to do with salt water?
How natural it is for me to curse people while at the same time praising God. After all, God is perfect, but people are not. God never lies, but people do. God is love, but people can be cruel.
And yet, God asks us to put our tongue under Holy Spirit control, otherwise, it can set our whole life on fire.
But how do I bridle that darned thing? It just flaps about, saying whatever it wants. My tongue seems to have a life of its own, and when my emotions are running high, who knows what will come out of my mouth?
We can learn to control our tongue by considering Matthew 15:18 which tells us that the heart is the source of what emerges from our mouths. Every response and word is birthed first in the heart.
This is starting to make sense: my words and my thoughts are useful indicators of whether sweet or salty water is feeding my tree of life. If my roots are in salt water, if I have wandered out of God’s habitation and into the wasteland, all I need to do is take myself before the Father and ask Him to reveal my heart condition.
I am drinking from a salty spring when I have allowed offense or bitterness to creep in. Repentance is the only solution for a heart condition that has taken me out of God’s house.
As humans, we are naturally afflicted by pride which makes repentance seem distasteful. In my attempts to avoid repentance, I have tried all manner of substitutes: being kind, buying gifts, cooking a special meal, planning a festive outing, making something beautiful . . . anything but repentance.
After years of trying out all the alternatives, my advice is to stop wasting time and resources attempting to side-step repentance. There is no other way to restore your heart, to return to the house of the Lord, to start drinking again from the sweet waters of reconciliation.
What do I do with all this, Mindy? How do I apply these truths? I want to move back to flourishing.
Let me share a practical way that I guard my heart and my tongue especially concerning those closest to me. When I notice my tongue becoming sharp, I ask God to show me what I have been thinking or feeling in my heart about that person.
As I allow God to show me my inner thoughts, I usually discover is that I have allowed fear to creep in and steal my hope. I have believed what temporal circumstances tell me, and I begin to doubt God’s eternal promises.
When I view that beloved person’s life from the perspective of my fears, I question God’s goodness and faithfulness. The future is terrifying. Does God have good plans or is that only a Jeremiah 29:11 fantasy?
When doubts plague me, I do not show my fear as timidity or anxiety. Oh no, I get angry and sarcastic when I am drunk with dread. I get salty! It has taken me years to realize that the source of my volatility originates from a place of hurt and fear that I have not allowed God to restore with His healing.
Laying aside the indignation of pride, the false strength of anger, I find peace in the embrace of my Savior. Repentance sweetens the salty waters and transforms the wasteland into a fresh green, luxuriant landscape.
May you know the joy of flourishing in the house of God, and receive this blessing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)