The last week, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in Holland, Michigan. During their Tulip Time Festival, their downtown and Centennial Park (and other delightful areas) are landscaped with tulips.
“It got hot here,” The Tulip Man said. “When it gets hot, the petals just fall off.” Hot, to a Holland Michigan Tulip Man is anything over 65 degrees.
My husband didn’t see how I could really capture good tulip photos, well, because. . . it got hot and petals fell off. . . . The perfect tulips in the tulip beds became more rare day by day. I have a heart for the broken tulips, though. There’s something beautiful in the redeeming of them – in their brokenness, with their petals falling off. I felt confident that The Tulip Man had plans for the soul of the tulip (the bulb) – and plans to redeem each of them to bloom anew, whole, be reborn. . . though I didn’t know how.
A few days later, members of the town’s tulip team, were digging each bulb out, one by one, to save them for the next spring. Saving them one by one. Last Saturday, for $10, you could bring a bucket to the park and dig up a bucket-full – one bulb at a time. . . to redeem a tulip bulb and give it new life in a place well-loved – maybe your yard, the yard of your children, a school entryway, by a church door.
The town’s tulip team wore gloves because tulips can be toxic. Tulip handlers, both hobby and professional, can find themselves with “tulip fingers.” According to National Capital Poison Control’s article, “Tulip Bulb Toxicity,” tuliposide, a chemical found in tulips, can cause an allergic reaction, especially after repeated exposures. “The skin’s reactions get worse and a painful rash can occur.” It can deform fingernails, cause runny noses, make breathing difficult. Eating one could cause nausea, heart palpitations, increased salivation, weakness (Poison Control). All parts of the tulip are toxic, from root to petals.
Handling of harvesting tulips can be challenging, uncomfortable. . . . Some people harvest not knowing the risks involved. Some prepare themselves for the harvesting in the parks, the curb-side flower beds, even in the tulip fields in the countryside. Some are more prepared to handle toxic than others, at least toxic tulips.
Yes! Let’s save the toxic tulips. But what about toxic. . . people? Are we just as eager to save the toxic people as we are to save the toxic tulips?
Toxic is a rashy word that has expanded its definition from just chemical dangers to labeling people as hazards. I don’t know whether it is a word that has evolved or devolved in its meaning, yet it is a word that seems to represent a devolving desire to save a lost soul, especially lost souls that argue back in uncomfortable ways.
Twenty-second Century Toxic grew out of Twenty-first Century boundary setting for improved mental health. Yet, in the admonishment to shut the relationship door on toxic relationships offers no care or solution to save the toxic lost. Even more concerning are that admonishments like these come from within the church. Such a stance seems at odds with the mission of a savior who died to save the toxic lost.
Sometimes, maybe we do need to step away from a friendship, a family member, a co-worker.
Yes, each of us needs good friends that mentor, encourage, have your back, allow you to be your God-designed self. God wants those friendships for his children – because his children need that to keep them grounded in their God-designed mission field. . . . friends that help keep your eyes focused on God.
Sometimes, we might even need to step away from a community. Sometimes our roots need transplanting to grow in knowledge and strength of who we are to God. One of the things I’ve heard time and time again from people struggling with addictions is how they need to leave their communities because the relationships in those communities continually try to pull them back into those addictions.
Breaking unhealthy patterns of behavior often requires immersion into new, healthy patterns of living. During those times of radical soul-metamorphosis, the toxic places and the toxic people are not yet your mission field. . . not yet.
“The toxicity of a substance is its ability to cause harmful effects. These effects can strike a single cell, a group of cells, an organ system, or the entire body. A toxic effect may be visible damage, or a decrease in performance or function measurable only by a test. ” ( Understanding Toxic Substances, purdue.edu).
Just like those who get a rash from the toxic tulip, people who have been harmed by toxic people or situations need time to heal. Even the tulip specialists know that continual contact with the tulip causes a rash to worsen – and more quickly. The time to return to the tulip fields is when the rash is healed and the tulip harvester knows how to prepare for and work in the tulip field.
Never doubt that you are designed for the mission field. In order to find the field, God’s mission for your life must first be found. Our Father gave us each gifts and talents to grow. Maybe you’re called to work in the medical field, the engineering field, the teaching field, the arts field, the food field (from farming to nutrition, to factories that create, package food, to restaurants), to the transportation field, to the sports field. . . I’m just scratching the field with those choices.
Do you know what they all have in common? They are all mission fields. Most mission fields are indirect mission fields. Even families are indirect mission fields. Yet, we can take the lessons from the direct mission fields and apply them to our indirect mission fields. Why would we think the mission fields of God’s lost lambs or the toxic tulips today would be any different from the dangerous, often uncomfortable mission fields of Jesus and his apostles?
- Adoniram Judson was tortured in the mission field of Burma (1788-1850 ), yet he didn’t give up on the toxic mission field God gave him.
- John and Betty Stam and their daughter were executed during the Chinese revolution, but others still came, not giving up on a toxic mission field.
- Elisabeth Eliot’s husband and other team members were killed the day they arrived to their mission field. If that’s not toxic, I don’t know what is. But she stayed, making a great impact with the talents God gave her, regardless of the toxicity that met her.
- Corrie Ten Boom lost her family in World War II. She and her sister were humiliated and starved in Ravensbrück Concentration camp. After the war, she took her message of God’s great love and mercy back to the Germans: “It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.” She recognized they would need help forgiving themselves, to understand that, yes, God forgives even that kind of toxic. After a speech one evening, a soldier from Ravensbrück walked up to her, not recognizing her as she recognized him, and asked for her forgiveness. She remembered the toxicity of those camps – of their horror and her loss. In her book, The Hiding Place, she recounts her struggle in that moment to forgive, to literally walk out what she had just said. She prayed to God to help her reach out and take his hand, to help her say the words because she didn’t feel like forgiveness in that moment. It wasn’t until she started speaking forgiveness, that it came alive in her heart for this man who had been so toxic in her life.
“Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that” (Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place).
The missionaries above are just a small sampling of those who didn’t walk away from their toxic mission field. Their lives reveal a pattern of behavior – Jesus’ pattern of how to respond to toxic people. . . . What’s the difference between the ones who didn’t walk away and the ones who did?
If you are saying someone is toxic,
what you are really saying
is that you are not yet spiritually mature enough
to walk into that mission field.
My walk-away dad was my mission field. He died when he was fifty-six years old. I only had three of my sons then. He’d never met them until a few weeks before he died. I hadn’t seen him in over ten years. One of my biggest regrets is that I hadn’t been spiritually mature enough to walk into that mission field before he died. Sometimes, we wait to be invited into the mission field, like waiting for an “I’m sorry” before giving the gift of forgiveness. Living forgiveness doesn’t need an, “I’m sorry.” God helped me rebuild the broken places of myself, taught me about strength, forgiveness, of who I was to Him, and unconditional love until one day I was mature enough. Though I cannot walk into the mission field of my dad, what I have learned has enabled me to not give up on the mission fields God has given me.
God wants us to go after the easy to love, the hard to love; the lost, the found; the believers, the unbelievers; the ones doing life all right, the ones doing life all wrong and the ones doing life in-between; the happy drunk, the surly drunk; the ones who share their milk money and the ones who don’t; the ones who love unconditionally and the ones who love conditionally. God loves them all, loves them in a “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen way”. . . He loves them all, us all like a good! Good Father loves his child, who would give his most precious possession, his riches, his identity, his life to save that child. Not because the child is pleasing. . . but because the child is his. . . And he doesn’t want a single one of His children lost. He never gives up. He never stops loving. He never stops pursuing. He wants us to love like that.
In a culture that considers opposing opinions offensive to the point that “toxic” gives the appearance of justifying the need to walk away from relationships that are in the scope of the individual’s mission field, as Christians, we have to walk like Jesus did into uncomfortable mission fields to save even those that have hurt us.
“. . . everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.” ~ 1 John 5:1b
People flock to the tulip fields to save the tulip bulbs – despite the toxicity. Let us not neglect the toxic mission fields of our own communities, our own neighborhoods, our own families. Are you willing, like The Tulip Man, to walk into the fields of broken Tulips, to dig into the dirt, to save them, so they can bloom again? To save something, maybe over and over again, after it has lost its charm when life got hot and it lost that which made it beautiful to the world?
If you’re not ready yet, are you willing to ask God to help make your heart ready?
“For when we were still without strength,
in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die;
yet perhaps for a good man
someone would even dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.”
~ Romans 5: 6-8, NKJV
Remember Me Monday: #95 & Link-up
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
. love extravagant.”
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!
Note: The Linky Powers That Be suggested that you load your own photo from your computer. For some reason, it will not load from your link. I will continue to try to sort this problem out. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Places I’m Linking at This Week:
Inspire Me Monday, Instaencouragements,
Legacy Link-Up, Recharge Wednesday
Faith on Fire, Tell His Story, Grace&Truth
Let’s Have Coffee Wednesday Celebrate Your Story
Scripture&Snapshot, Sunday Scripture Blessings
Sweet Tea & Friends Monthly Link-up