A Fierce Flourishing: What exactly is that?
In our MOPS ministry, the ladies have been focusing on our theme of “A Fierce Flourishing.” We have heard the triumphant and tragic stories of many women throughout the year, while looking at our Old Testament scripture for our theme verse this year, Isaiah 55:12-13. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
We are still coming to terms with what does it exactly mean to flourish and be fierce in a spirit filled way. Frequently, we feel as though we are merely surviving or floundering; perhaps occasionally we may do “moderately well”, but rarely, if ever, do we recognize that we are flourishing. Recently, I shared my thoughts with the leadership team. We examined John 15:1-10 for a new testament picture of flourishing. Please take a minute to read it.
Figuring out what it means to flourish fiercely means answering a few questions:
• Who am I, and Whose am I? A question of identity
• What stretches me, and what supports me? A question of reliance
• Have I arrived? A question of faithfulness
Who am I? and Whose am I?
The most important question we must all answer is “Whose am I?” It is a question that only you can answer. Either you are your own person, owned by no one. Or you are a child of the King of Heaven, forever in His service. Whose are you? Answer that question, and then you may answer, “Who am I?”
We were all given a spark, a point of veiled glory that only God can unveil at the right time and for his glory. What is your spark? What is your seed? A spark starts a fire, a seed starts a vineyard. For me, I know that God has built into me a gift for music, art, teaching, and cooking. If I look back over my life, the times that I felt closest to God are times involving those tasks. It’s part of my history. It’s something that has brought joy, life, hope, and connection. Yet everything that grows and flourishes must go through a process of death, hibernation, and winter. At some points in our life, our gifts, talents, or seeds stay on the shelf. Circumstances prevent us from flourishing. Sometimes other people can give us a needed dose of humility and because of their critical comments, we may choose to let those seeds die as it were, and we stop creating.
The question is always, “When do we allow that seed to come to life?” Whether our special seed or talent comes to life again or for the first time, we must be courageous and prayerful, “In this time, in This Soil, I will plant this see and see what God does with it.” When we give our seed packet to God our Father, He chooses the timing of when to plant, how to nurture it, and how much fruit it will bear.
What tethers me? What stretches me?
In John 15, the seeds have already been planted, and a large vineyard is growing. Vines naturally grow and stretch every which way, extending tendrils to the next vertical thing, whether it is a trellis or another plant, and curl tightly around that vertical thing for support. The gardener must pay attention to the vine and gently tether it to a structure for the health of all the plants. If the vine attaches to another plant, it can strangle the life from the plant! Branches attached to other plants, must be carefully removed from both plants. The gardener needs to direct the plant toward the trellis or net or stake. If it is untethered, it may not bear fruit. A vine completely out of control must be severely pruned and allowed to regrow.
As I study the familiar John 15 passage, I ask:
• What stretches you?
• What supports you?
• Where do you need to be re-directed to the trellis?
• Are your relationships healthy?
• Have I arrived at Flourishing?
We can answer those questions but still not know if we are flourishing. Women like checklists; they make us feel accomplished and organized. But relationships aren’t built on checklists, relationships are built on love. Am I growing? Am I blooming? Am I producing fruit? In season? Out of season? Consider the amaryllis, philodendron, Christmas cactus, and other plants and vines. Even potatoes produce fruit under the soil, out of view. When do the plants bloom, and why? The purpose of flowers is to reproduce seeds to generate other plants. Fruit provides nourishment for others and reproduction for the plant. A plant’s growth and flourishing are cyclical. So instead of asking, “Have I arrived?”, I think a better formed question would be, “Am I being faithful?” I have put together a “Best List” for ensuring flourishing.
• Word of God – Best food for growth.
• Confession – Best fertilizer.
• Worship & prayer – Best way to be tethered.
• Obedience – Best indicator of fruit (see Galatians 5).
The best way to analyze whether or not you are flourishing is to spend some prayerful moments reflecting on and journalling through these questions.
Whose am I? Am I truly a child of God, and forever in His service?
Who am I? What are the talents and gifts God has given me? (currently used or not).
What stretches me? Toward whom/what am I grasping?
Where do I need to course correct to keep my branches vining around Christ?
Have I arrived at Flourishing? Am I growing? Am I blooming? Am I producing fruit? In season? Out of season?
Am I being faithful in the basic spiritual disciplines? (Bible Reading, worship, confession, prayer, obedience).
by Heather Soukup, Director of Women’s Ministries