Kimberly N. Alleyne
The Harvest Magazine, Publisher and Editor
There were three bamboo stalks in the white vase. Two of them were healthy, and the third one, was only partly healthy. A deep evergreen color ran from the top of its leaves to the top of the stalk. The stalk was shriveled, and shaded by a dim fading yellow and dots of brown. I could tell that eventually, the disease in the stalk would travel up to the leaves and then the whole plant would die. If you only saw the top of the bamboo plant, you wouldn’t think it had dead roots.
How could a plant be healthy on the top, dead on the bottom and live for any amount of time?
When I saw the plant, I immediately thought of how I used to feel when I was a young woman trying to find my way professionally and spiritually. I’ve been a Believer since I was 10, and for many years after I had a easy-going, casual relationship with the Lord. We were good. When I was pressing my way through my mid- and late twenties, I realized that we’d only scratched the surface, that my “religious” weekly church attendance, and self-focused prayer were just that: religious. And religion and spirituality have nothing to do with one another. I stumbled into that realization, but it was a good fall because I learned about spiritual intimacy and what it looks like.
This is the season that I learned God is not a God who takes pleasure in punishing His children. I learned that nothing is about me—all of this, our struggles, our trials, our failings, all about Him. All of it.
A Long Road to Revelation
But it was a long road to grasp the learning objectives. A very long, winding road. It was on this road where I learned my own “roots” were parched and near death. I projected happiness and confidence on the outside, but on the inside, down deep, I was dying. My soul was mottled with unhealed wounds, fear, guilt and shame, anger, unforgiveness. I was easily offended. When it came to relationships and conflict, I took the easy way out by simply breaking relationships. As a result of an emotional chest filled with broken relationships. I did not value fellowship–who needs that anyway? The only time I prayed was when I needed something or when I chose to wallow in self-pity. The only time I praised God was when I was sang along from the pews during the “Praise” segment of service. And to make matters worse, I had an embarrassingly myopic view of praise was, and an even more limited understanding of worship. I thought I had to do both, praise and worship, at church, in a building.
I was active in the church I was attending then. Deeply engaged. Seemed like I was there 3-4 nights a week. But just like the bamboo plant in the photo above was immersed in water and was still dying, I was doing the right things–all of the surface things (works) we do that we think earn us extra points–but I was not well in my heart of my soul, and I certainly wasn’t racking up extra points because God is not a score keeper.
Looking at that diseased bamboo took me back to that time in my life quite unexpectedly. Then I remembered when my wisdom teeth came in, also during my mid-twenties. I was one of those people whose wisdom teeth were ushered in by severe pain; they came in sideways. The wisdom teeth on the right caused the most pain. And the dentist had a hard time extracting them; she actually had to put her foot up on the chair I was reclined in to get a grip at just the right angle to get them out. It was intense. When the tooth finally gave up, I was amazed that it was perfectly white on top, and brown on the bottom near the roots. Another picture of seemingly good health on outward appearances, and death and decay on the inside.
So eventually, I got tired of being a weak Christian who was constantly bullied and boxed around by the enemy. I got tired of being angry, being sad, feeling hopeless and afraid, and I got tired of holding on to unforgiveness and resentment. I got real tired. I did not understand who I was, didn’t know my identity. I didn’t understand my power. And I was exhausted with trying to hide all my garbage from God. (I’m not sure why we ever try to hide anything from Him when He knows everything inside out from beginning to end.) I got real serious about God and my relationship with Him. I sought Him out to tell Him how much I love Him, need Him, how thankful I am, and how great He is. I romanced Him. My relationship with the Lord became centered on Him and what He wanted for every aspect of my life.
I saw Him. I felt Him. I heard Him. It was amazing. The more I got, the more I wanted, and I chased Him down.
These are the nutrients that were missing from my growth. The Church is a part of God’s plan, not all of it. And if we don’t tap into the whole plan, then we do ourselves, and the Kingdom a huge disservice. We stunt our growth and potential, and make it near impossible to walk out our purpose.
As I continued to mature, I learned how to be intimate with Him, which meant I could bare all before Him, strip down to nothing, and He would not judge me. He has never shunned me because of my past failures, or even my present failures for that matter. I woke early to talk with Him, and to listen. I sang to Him, I wrote songs and poems spontaneously. I sang and danced in thanksgiving and praise with music or without, it did not matter any more. I learned I could thank and praise Him no matter where I was, and that music was not a prerequisite for either.
A lot has changed since I became a spiritual “nudist.” Thank God for giving us a fresh supply of mercy every day. From glory to glory! I am definitely still a work progress, but the work gets easier. It gets better. And the more naked we allow ourselves to get, the easier the work becomes.