As a young girl I remember seeing Better Homes & Gardens magazine arrive in our mailbox each month. Mom would take a break from her work to “sit a spell” and be encouraged by the practical articles and the pretty photographs. Seeing our stack of magazines on the coffee table was an inspiring sight. Why? Because in our hearts, we all want better homes and gardens.
But how many of us will admit that a more descriptive headline featuring our family in a magazine may be Bitter Homes & Gardens? As moms, we have the choice to set the tone for our home. But if we allow bitterness to take root, chances are our homes will showcase bitter fruit.
Inspiring cover story
There’s a mom and daughter in the Bible who provide an inspiring cover story for turning bitter homes into better homes! We pick up the storyline as a grieving mom, named Naomi, loses her husband and two sons. Naomi’s plan? Clean up the current house and move back to her homeland with her daughter-in-law.
Ruth 1:20 relates her conversation with friends. “Don’t call me Naomi” she told the women, “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”
The hand dealt to Naomi had filled her heart and home with bitterness. She definitely needed to clean house.
Let me ask you a question: Do you have items in your refrigerator that need to be cleaned out right now? I’m definitely raising my hand on that one. My kitchen may look tidy on the outside, but if left uncleaned, the rotten fruit in our refrigerator will begin to stink up the whole house. In that same spirit, God convicted me during some spring (soul) cleaning that I had allowed bitterness to build up far too long. As a result, destructive mold had been growing in my heart and soul. Just like purging the fridge must precede refilling it, I needed a cleanup on aisle B for Bitterness.
Hebrews 12:15 warns us, “See that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
What are situations that have caused you “trouble” in the past or are currently sowing seeds of bitterness in you? Our family’s recent story includes chapters riddled with surprises of suffering and injustice. Two years ago, our youngest daughter experienced a tragic athletic training injury. Since then, our strong determined D1 athlete has endured 11 back surgeries—interwoven with both human heroics and human error. Yes, the roots of bitterness grew deeper and deeper with each unfortunate development, each emergency surgery, and each tragic turn. This once positive parent turned “prickly.”
Identify the Fruit of Bitterness
Seeds of bitterness can find their roots through dramatic devastations but also through daily irritations. Internally, mommas with a root bitterness growing beneath surface play mind games of regret, flourish in self-justification and self-pity, lose joy, and spread sorrow or sarcasm like weeds to everyone around us. Like a tube of toothpaste, when we are squeezed, what’s inside us comes out. Externally, a bitter heart will sprout its fruit in both in our countenance and our conversation. Faces are a reflection of the heart. And words are the overflow. Bitterness can be seen in hurt and hopeless eyes; in mouths that overflow with criticism and complaining, blame and brokenness. (Yep. That described this momma!)
Lessons from the Garden
So, how can we then become mommas who lead our hearts from being bitter to better? Our homes from bitterness to blessing? My husband is a zealous gardener. Perhaps God can use a simple garden lesson Steve learned from childhood to inspire us to have better homes & gardens!
Steve was raised doing yard work not only for his own family but for several little old ladies in the neighborhood. As a young elementary aged boy, one elderly lady, Mrs. Harriet Fulmer, would pay him to come rid her yard of dandelions. Steve learned that he could quickly fill up his bucket and collect his quarters if he popped the tops off all the yellow weeds in her yard. Yes. It looked clean, but within a couple of days there were even more dandelions than before! Little Steve would get the call from Mrs. Fulmer needing his time and attention yet again. His father’s wise advice? If he wanted to actually get rid of the dandelions, he would have to go for the roots! It would take longer initially, but it would be a blessing in the end.
The same is true with us.
Crucify the Root of Bitterness
When we ask our Master Gardener to root out all bitterness, blessing will bloom in its place. It will take a little more time. But, like those destructive multiplying dandelions, we can’t just cut off bitter behavior, we must crucify the root! So, let’s learn from our Master Gardener Himself! Let’s follow Jesus. As we walk through the weeks of Lent leading to Easter, Jesus leads the way for us to crucify bitterness and experience His blessing.
Read Matthew 27:26-31. Even in this short passage, what reasons would Jesus have to be bitter?
“So, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters] and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.”
Wow! After reading this, do we still think we have justified reasons to be bitter? Our lists are lame compared to just one isolated glimpse into Christ’s unjustified mistreatment. Jesus invites us to follow His ways, so we can experience His blessing.
- Follow Jesus from Bitterness to Forgiveness. How did Jesus respond to their torture? Jesus spoke from a bitter-LESS heart, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.” (Luke 23:34) Like Jesus, extending forgiveness sets our hearts and homes free from bitterness.
- Follow Jesus from Bitterness to Beloved. Dig even deeper into the into the soil of your own heart and ask, “Does Jesus have reasons to be bitter toward me because of my bitter attitudes, words, and actions?” As you lower your head in conviction, hear your Savior say—“I forgive you for it all. I am not bitter toward you. Instead, I call you My Beloved.” With that truth, we can lift our heads with humbled hearts and a countenance reflecting the confidence of His grace extended toward us.
- Follow Jesus by taking a Zero Bitterness Tolerance Position. During His crucifixion, Jesus dealt another powerful blow to bitterness on our behalf. In Matthew 27:34, we read that, “The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, he tasted it, but he refused to drink it.” Ladies, Jesus tasted the bitterness of this world but He REFUSED to drink it so that He can empower us to do the same. Like our Beloved, we too can adopt a “Zero Bitterness Tolerance Policy.” Refuse bitterness when presented to you.
Follow Jesus from Bitterness to Blessing.
Well, our “cover story” of Naomi and her family began with bitterness in Ruth chapter 1. But by God’s grace it ended in blessing. In Ruth 4:14 we read, “Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you, but has blessed you with a Redeemer. May His name be renowned…”
As we follow Jesus through these weeks leading to Easter, let’s ask Him to identify the fruits and crucify the roots of bitterness in our hearts and homes. As we do, our Redeemer will rewrite our storyline too—from bitterness to blessing. In His nail-pierced hands, by His grace, and for His glory, He will build BETTER Homes and Gardens for His family!
Keep rooting up those dandelions, sisters—and live BLESSED!
P.S. I pray that (like my momma reading her magazine), your hearts and homes are made better by taking moments to “sit a spell” to be blessed by the Heart of Womanhood Monthly Blogs and mother daughter Portraits of Womanhood Bible Studies. Check these out at: https://heartofwomanhood.org/about/ By digging into His Word together, God will build Better Homes and Gardens for you, His Beloved!