The Cultivating theme for 2023 is reclaiming and each seasonal edition of Cultivating this year will be exploring a topic that is tied to it. The topic for Spring is Assessing, a word that is challenging, full of risk, and yet also full of redemptive possibility. Please join us this season as we work together through our understanding of what assessing means, especially for us in the labour of reclaiming and restoring the wholeness of life intended for us.
The work of Reclaiming is a vast endeavour. “Re” means do again. To “re” anything is therefore ‘to do it again’. “Re” is the labour of our entire Christian life. Re-deem. Re-new. Re-store. Re-build. Reclaiming a whole (complete) life is not done by “magic”. It is not done by a sudden moment of revelation or understanding, an instant deliverance, or a single decision carrying forward with sweeping actions. Reclaiming is a multi-layered work practiced over a long period of time. It is the long work of restoration. It requires a stalwart commitment to take back what belongs to us with a resolute heart. In essence, it is the working out of our salvation with fear trembling.
My given life, like yours, is complex, formed by many elements. I am not just a blob of life flopping about through Time. I am a beautifully woven Being, given spirit, body, mind, heart, and soul. I am given a calling and a name unique to me. I am given assets to manage and steward. I am given proper and right boundaries to guard and defend. I am given a body in which to dwell and be present on this good earth. I am given joy as strength and crown. In that same good and beautiful way, so are you.
We face a cunning enemy in common, one sworn with all malice and unrelenting intent to kill, steal, and destroy. Every life on earth has suffered because of that enemy and every human being bears the effects of our own fallen condition. Reclaiming then is not simply about reclaiming the lost goodness of Eden. Reclaiming in this sense is about taking back what I have lost, been robbed of, and surrendered in the on-going attacks of evil against my own present life. In taking back what has been rightfully given to me – I must face, name, and assess what has been lost, what has been taken, and what has been surrendered, not in just a broad theological theory, but deep in and personal. This can be fearsome, even heartbreaking work. Yet,
I cannot reclaim what I cannot identify as mine, or what I do not have a rightful claim to.
I cannot reclaim what is good, true, beautiful, right, noble, and worthy of praise in myself and my given life if I cannot look open-eyed with the intent to see what is worthy of reclaiming. This is work done in layers, and though the elements are often mixed, the work is always specific. In the work of a restored life in Christ, I must labour with Him to reclaim my name, my assets, my boundaries, my body, and my joy. Those are real elements to my being. They require directed attention. They require intentional, focused practices. Assessing, like Naming, is one of those practices.
Assessing is about judgment, but not about the judgment that condemns. Assessing is evaluating and determining value. In Christ, assessing is practiced as a part of what we are made for. And in Christ, everything being assessed in ourselves and in our lives is evaluated through the lens of love. It is not simply to find the defective, but to find what is true and worth saving. Assessing is an essential practice of cultivating. Why do I say this? Because in context of reclaiming, when we are assessing we are evaluating what has been stolen, broken, or destroyed – we are looking to take back what is of value, what is of worth. And if we can enter into the practice of assessing with the knowledge that its purpose is to empower, then we go into that work with courage, with hope, and even with anticipation!
Something that settles and braces me, especially in the face of fear or having to make hard judgment calls is this verse in 2 Timothy. I have gone back to it hundreds of times and clung to it, convicted by the order of what God gives here. Power first, then love, and a sound mind. Three empowering elements given together. The term ‘sound mind’ in some translations is phrased ‘sound judgment’ ~ judgment as the capacity to discern, evaluate, reach a finding and determination. What I take from this is God’s emboldening expectation and desire for us to be powerful, grounded in love, and to have minds that function soundly with purpose. He did not make us to be paralyzed with fear, loveless without compassion, or rattled in our minds. He made us to be able to assess, discern, and evaluate. He made us to be whole and brave, strong and true. He made to hold the ground for Him and, in Christ, to be conquerors.
When I began looking at this topic I admit I was afraid. I feared it because my association with the word assessing was bound to the fear of judgment, being condemned and found wanting. It is a deep fear and fanned by the enemy who is the father of lies. As a believer steeped in Scripture study, I know that in Christ there is therefore no condemnation. But it is one thing to know good theology and sound doctrine, and another thing to have that knowledge integrated into my being, for mind knowledge to be heart knowledge. This disparity between knowing and belief is the very purpose of cultivating. This is the soil of what it means to be whole, when truth is enfleshed in us, and we live outwardly out of that inward fullness.
Several months ago as I started the work for this issue, I came as I was ~ fearful and weary ~ and in the work found something I did not expect ~ that I am loved. I am not judged as wanting, a chronic failure, falling short, never enough. I did not expect to find that the One Who wills me to evaluate does so that I might be empowered and whole. I did not expect to find that I am purposefully made to assess.
How then may I look at my life and self and see through eyes other than condemnation, for what is good, true, and beautiful, giving God glory and pleasure? How do I look there for the thread of a true story? My work, in Christ, as we labour together is to assess all ground of being before me with love, fearlessness, and a sound mind. I can do all that because, in Christ, I am rooted in His authority and His nature.
Assessing, in the act of reclaiming, is the particular practice of grace and judgment, determining good from evil. Assessing bestows value to what the enemy has said is worthless. Offering a benediction and blessing, what once was a fearful act is transformed into healing. And what could be more astonishing and welcome than finding the Voice behind our courage is calling us forth and that He is calling forth the resurrection of our worth itself.
The featured image, “Magnolia Blossom Unfolding,” is courtesy of the gifted photographer, Naku Mayo, and used with his kind permission for Cultivating. We are grateful for his skill, commitment to craft, and his generosity.
If you would like to explore the prompting questions that we used in our approach to this season’s topic, here they are:
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, business owner, and publisher. She is the founder and publisher of Cultivating Oaks Press, LLC, and the Executive Director of The Cultivating Project, the fellowship who create content for Cultivating Magazine. She has been honoured to serve in executive management, church leadership, school boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 35 years.
Now empty nesters, Lancia & her husband Peter make their home in the Black Forest of Colorado, keeping company with 200 Ponderosa Pine trees, a herd of mule deer, an ever expanding library, and two beautiful black cats. Lancia loves land reclamation, website and print design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, and cherishes the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald. She lives with daily wonder of the mercies of the Triune God and constant gratitude for the beloved company of Cultivators.
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