Are you in a place of barrenness? The Hebrew word galmud (usually translated “barren”) paints a much larger picture than just unfruitful ground. It can mean “lonely”, “stony land”, “unproductive”, or even “through want and famine they are stiff”. This means a barren season in our life doesn’t always just look like not seeing fruit. It can look like loneliness or isolation. It can be a season of relentless trying that feels like running up against a brick wall (like trying to plant in stony ground). It can look like idleness. This is different from the “be still” or “rest” seasons that the Lord builds in and even commands in our walk with Him… this is a kind of frozenness or paralysis that may come from fear or overthinking. It can also look like being numb or ignoring God-given dreams, callings, and desires.
As God spoke to me about this word, He showed me that the roots of this word come from “wrapped up” - like being wrapped in fabric- in a way that is too hard or cuts off. When we think of the places of our own spiritual barrenness (isolation, inactivity, or loss of passion) we can usually trace them back to being wrapped up in the wrong things. The phrase “wrapped up” can mean “deeply devoted to, fully involved, or interested in”. The striking thing about these definitions is they capture these areas: our heart and soul (devotion), our strength/actions (involvement), and our mind/attention (interest). There are the exact areas that we are called to be “wrapped up” in the Lord- with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength (Mark 12:30-31).
Typically, we tend to avoid pretty obvious examples of this. The places we become wrapped up in the wrong things are more subtle. This example from Collins Dictionary caught my attention: “If someone is wrapped up in a particular person or thing, they spend nearly all their time thinking about them, so that they forget about other things which may be important”. What gets the most time in our thought life so that we’re distracted from realizing important things God may be waiting to show us? What things so captivate our emotions that they keep us doing less meaningful things with our days than what God would have for us? What things do we become involved in because they are “good” or “necessary” that may be less important or fulfilling than what God has for us?
Recently, the Lord was teaching me about plants. Specifically parasitic plants. Did you know mistletoe is a parasite? The fascinating instructions for removing parasitic plants that have gotten too close to the root to just prune off is to wrap them up. It starves them of sunlight, so they die. Things that are leeching our time, energy, affection, or thought life can be starved by becoming wrapped up in whatever God is doing in that moment.
Remember that root word for “barren” that means "wrapped up like a cloth"? It actually appears when talking about mantles. In 2 Kings 2:8, Elijah took his mantle, wrapped it up, and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. The Lord never designed us to get wrapped up in what makes us barren. He designed us to get wrapped up in co-laboring with Him to bring the miraculous.
Ironically, just verses later following this parting of the water with the wrapped-up mantle, (verses 19-22) the people are seeking direction on what to do about barren and unproductive land.
19 The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”20 “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” 22 And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
The solution God gave Elisha was not for them to move on or to give up hope of being fruitful- or even to try something different. He said to take the same source that was unproductive, bring it to Him, and let Him “re-season” it with His healing power. God wants us also to bring our “barren” places to Him. The prefix “re” indicates a “turning back to repeat anew”. As we turn back to the Lord in those places and let Him “do it again” His way, we invite His miraculous power to change our most lifeless places forever.
1. Where are barren places in my life (lonely, stony ground, unproductive, loss of passion or dreaming)?
2. Show me what it looks like to “unwrap” my heart, soul, mind, and strength from anything in these places that is not your best for me. Then, show me what it looks like to replace those things with being wrapped up in Your Presence.