Cultivate Grace

(The following is a transcript of Henry Cloud’s message “Cultivate Grace,” part VI of our Cultivate Series. The video is also available to you here.)

Okay, so, I love Willow, I love coming here every August, and I get to talk to y’all, and so, I take it so seriously. I scour the earth for the entire year to find the nuggets. And I’m gonna share—I’ve done this, looked at everything that’s out there, and I’ve found out what are the four most important spiritual truths that I can share with you, and I’ve found them.

­-­You ready? Number one. If you understand these four things, it’s all you need to really understand about any kind of religion or spirituality or anything. Number one is this: Muslims don’t recognize Jews as Children of God. Number two: Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Got those two? Number three: Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the head of the church. And Number four: Baptists don’t recognize each other at Hooter’s. Pretty much all you need to know. Okay, so let’s close in prayer. I’ve come to give you everything I know about...

So I start with that for a reason. And it’s this. I needed some way to tell you that I’m really serious about... that what I want to share with you today is, to me, like that weighty. That, if there was one thing—and, you know, I get to come here a lot, I feel so privileged to work alongside with you for so many years. And every time I come here, I want to give you, kind of, something that helps. But what I’m gonna talk about today, to me—you know how when you’re gonna get executed, they give you one last meal? So you get to pick the good stuff. Well, to me, if I had to, if I had the opportunity to share one last sermon... it would be this one. This message from this particular passage of Scripture, to me, just takes all of what, all of what the faith means and puts it so clearly.

And so I want to unpack it for you. But you’re in a series because it fits—when Bill told me the series that y’all were in, called Cultivate, cultivate is about how me make things grow, right? And some people think, you know, like, spiritual growth or business growth or marriage growth or personal growth is like a toggle—you just turn it on and it’s supposed to be there. It’s not, that’s not what reality or the Bible teaches. It’s a cultivation process that grows. You can’t will a fruit of the Spirit. You don’t say, “Okay, have long-suffering right now,” or “Have patience right now.” You don’t will it. It’s like putting a seed in the ground, and you don’t say, “Okay, have an apple, do it!” You don’t do that. You grow it.

So here’s what I want to address this morning. When we look at cultivating in whatever area of life God or your heart or your pain is speaking to you about today... whatever area that’s not where you want it to be. That you’re trying to cultivate it. You’ve been in, maybe, a relationship or a marriage or with your kid or with a business partner or with a family member or you’ve got this sale’s organization—it’s not where it ought to be, or this business. Whatever it is, your health—it’s not where it ought to be. And you’re trying to cultivate it—you’re trying to make it grow. And yet it’s stuck. Anybody ever experience that?

How many of you brought that stuck person with you? I know, don’t, don’t.

We all—see, this is universal. And that’s what I think this passage we’re gonna talk about today speaks to so beautifully. And it’s one of my favorites. Jesus told a parable:

A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and he found none. He told the vineyard worker, “Listen, for three years I’ve been coming looking for fruit on this tree and I haven’t found any. Cut it down!”

Exclamation point. Cut it down! And then it even gets worse. He says, “Why does it even use up the soil? Why are we even wasting any time? Why—get it out of here! Cut it down!”

But then something happens. The vineyard worker steps in. It says he replied to him, “Sir, leave it alone this year also. Until I dig around and fertilize it, and perhaps it’ll bear fruit next year. And if not, then you can cut it down.”

I want to unpack this story because I think it, in it, are all of the essential elements not only of how life is like it is—that sometimes it’s not bearing fruit where we want it to bear fruit. And we aren’t bearing fruit where we want it. There’s some area—that depression, that addiction, that relationship problem, that business problem. You know, the fig tree was in the vineyard, you know, they’re coming to church. Some of you’ve been coming here, but you feel stuck, maybe. We’ve been working on it; we’ve been working on this relationship.

We, this is universal. Everybody knows this experience. So let’s look at what happens here. And the first thing we see in the story is that there is an expectation. Okay? There’s an expectation. The vineyard owner has an expectation for this tree to produce fruit. Now, how many of you have expectations? How many of you are expectations addicts? How many of you cannot have a thought that’s not an expectation? You know what that’s like—you know, you Type-A types, right?

You know what’s interesting is everything we know about the mind and the brain and how it works, is some people think well, I don’t, you know, I don’t expect much, and you know, I don’t, I don’t, I’m tolerant. And I, I let people let live, I don’t... And people think they don’t have expectations. But as C. S. Lewis says, you think people don’t have expectations? They say they don’t have expectations? Then go punch them in the nose. See if they have an expectation for you to not do that.

See, because God has wired us with there’s the way that things ought to be. Now, some people overdo it. Lot of people overdo it. Some people underdo it. But everybody, everybody knows that, daggummit, I married an adult! Why can’t they act like one? Everybody’s got expectations. Haven’t you ever heard people say that—how many of you thought you married an adult? You really expected them to show up and, like, be able to talk and have a watch and know what time it is and all of that. Turn to that person and say, “Come on, yeah, I thought you, you know, you promised me you were eighteen.” Right? Or how many of you have ever said this to your kids? “How old are you?”

See, we have expectations. And what research shows is we actually judge people according to our expectations, which are rarely agreed upon. But that’s how we look at each other. And here’s the first thing I wanna say: Thank God for expectations. See, a lot of times, we’ve made ‘em a bad thing. In fact, in this culture, one of the things that drives me crazy as a psychologist is to see a culture of parenting where expectations have become bad. Every piece of research we’ve ever had said the highest degrees of health and wellness come from when you’re raising kids high expectations along with high warmth and relational help to meet those expectations.

See, we do away with expectations, and we can’t even grow.

I was in Tuscany a couple weeks ago talking to one of the great wine growers of the world for an episode of Leadership University about pruning. And we asked him, said, you know, he won greatest wine in the world for two years. We said, “In making your wine, and in these vineyards, do you irrigate?”

We’re walking through the vineyard, and he got animated, he said, “No, no, no, we don’t irrigate—not unless you absolutely have to!”

And we said, “Why?”

He said, “Because you’ve got to require the vine to reach down and continue expecting it to go find its water. You can’t give it to it. You can’t give it to the vine for it. It’s gotta work. You gotta have expectations, cause that builds the strength to be able to produce the fruit that you’re looking, looking for.”

Expectations are good. But, as we’re gonna see, expectations can kill also.

But this is a good thing. Now, the second thing we see, though, is, you see this fruit doesn’t live up to the expectation. Right? And you get a response from the vineyard grower—owner, I mean. And the response is something that I’m gonna call a legal response. In other words, he says, “Okay, here’s how it ought to be. You ought to have fruit; for three years, I’ve been coming, expecting you to get your homework done, or meet your number, or be loving, or whatever we expect—for three years, I’ve been coming, expecting fruit on this tree, and I haven’t found any. Cut it down! Exclamation point.” And in this response, what you see, is you see a judgment of the level the person is at.

And here’s why I call it legal. Every system of philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, theology, anthropology, human behavior, performance, research... every system that has ever studied humanity has said this is absolutely what we see natural to us. That we all have a standard to ourselves and others, and when we don’t meet that standard, the most natural response we have is judgment.

Now, what is judgment? It’s exactly like, in the Bible, in the book of James, it says this way, that we judge, the law judges us, God’s law that, it says the whole world is born under this “oughtness,” as C. S. Lewis called it. And we’re born under it. And here’s what it says, it judges us harshly in an all-or-nothing manner. You failed in one point, you failed in all. How many of you have ever felt that in a relationship? So you do all this stuff, so that person that you, you need their love, you need their approval so much—you do all this stuff. And all they see is the one thing that you didn’t do well.

Or you go into that performance review and the boss says, “These are, you know, handful, these are going great, all these things. I want to mention one thing that I really need you to improve on.” And you yourself go home, and he told you eight things you did well and one thing that’s bad, and what do you do? You obsess all night about which? How great the eight are? Or you obsess about the one?

And here’s what brain research tells us. We know this. This is how powerful being born under—as the Bible says, we’re legally, we’re born under it, we’ve got traffic tickets outstanding against us all the time in life. It says we’re born under this perfectionistic standard. And the research tells us this. Think about how true this is in our experience. Now we can hook people’s brains up and see it.

It takes six to seven positive pieces of feedback to give the brain the ability to metabolize one negative one. That’s research. And you know what they found about the most high-performing teams in organizations? That’s what their culture looks like. People hear six or seven positive things to every one negative. They don’t ignore the negative. But they know how powerful it can be in the absence...

In about ’05, I was writing a book called Integrity, and I was looking up some research, and I found this research in, it came, it was a study, and then it was written about, and on the cover of Business Week magazine, Michael Dell’s picture was on there, it said, “The New Dell.” And what the story was about was they had gone through the whole organization, Dell Computer, and what they found was 50 percent of Dell employees—50 percent—said on an anonymous survey if they had an offer tomorrow, they would leave. 50 percent.

This news got back to Michael Dell, and they went and further explored it. Ended up with him going before the whole company and said, “I found out I’m the problem.” He said, “What they’ve told me is I have high expectations, but I’m relationally and emotionally detached from you. You, all you feel is high expectations, and you feel no care.” He said, “I’m gonna get better.” He said, “The truth is, I’m not trying to be that way.” He said, “The truth is I’m painfully shy. And I want to do better.”

And see that’s how all of us find ourselves in this world. And here’s the sad thing to me. So many people—and this is why I said, if I could preach one message—so many people think this is the Christian message. This is the Christian life. God’s got an expectation. Every week, there’s something you promise: “Oh, God, I’ll do better here,” or: “I won’t do that again,” or: “I’ll do this,” or: “I’ll do more of that,” or we tell our spouses or our kids, “I’ll do better,” and “I’ll do better.” And then we don’t. We fail in some way. And then we feel bad. We feel guilty. How many of you can identify with that? And then that turns into a cycle:

“Honey, I’ll never—”

“Yeah, right.”

And we tell ourselves that.

Now, this is what the Bible calls the Law—Moses came off the mountain with ten of these expectations, right? And then there’s a lot of guilt that goes with that. You know what the modern-day version, the modern-day word for this cycle of expectations and feeling bad and failure is called? It’s called a diet. A lot of people think that’s what Christianity is. A lot of sales organizations, what do they do? They bring people in: “Here’s your target!” We call you in: “Did you reach your number? Did you reach your number?” You didn’t. You get a pep talk: “Go out there. You gotta do better!” And drive people, drive people, drive people.

But the next week, the next quarter, nothing is different because nothing has changed. See, for three years, how many couples rag on each other? “You should be, you should, you should, you should, you need to...” But nothing is gonna make it different. It stays the same.

It’s like, you can go on a lot—not Willow, but you can go to a lot of churches this morning all across America, and the sermon will be a three-point outline: “God’s good. You’re bad. Try harder.” We keep doing that over and over.

If I can start with this. The expectation that we’re to do better and we’re to be more and that we’re not to sin and we’re—all of this stuff. The expectation and then the resulting bad feeling and condemnation we feel when we fall. That is not the message of the Bible. That’s the opening to the Bible. It’s not even the opening, really. It’s chapter two, really. Three, four, five. Act two of...

You see, the opening was not about this. The opening was about: we could meet the expectations, cause God created us in a way to be able to do that. But then we fail, and this is where we live.

And it’s not the message of this story either. But I want you to look at some area of your life. Where are you under expectations, and you just can’t get there—and they may be your own: I’ve gotta get over this tendency, you know, yell at my kids or be fearful or how to get—I should be further in my career. Or I should, I should, I should, I should, I should. And you just feel bad about it. And I want to start there cause we all have it.

But here’s the message this morning. The story doesn’t end there. And neither does the Bible. “Cut it down! Why does it even use up the soil?” Anger. Guilt. “You’re worthless!” And how many times have we put our head on the pillow and say, “What even made me think I could run a business?” or: “Whatever made me think I could be a parent?” “Why did I even, why do I even use up the soil?” And we have that in our head.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t end there, though. Here’s the good news. The next thing that happens in the story is somebody steps in from the outside of that debate. Enter the advocate. And see, you got this party over here, and the party’s going on, and it’s ugly, it goes on in our head, it goes on in bedrooms, it goes on in board rooms. And the party is this: “You should be this!” And I’m not, and I feel bad. “Well, you gotta...” And there’s this debate. You cut it down—we cut each other down. And then... something happens.

This vineyard grower steps in to that conversation between the judge and the one that’s not as good as they ought to be. It could be an athlete, a business person, or a parent. And interrupts that conversation. And what is the first thing that advocate does? Joins the judge and says, “You’ve got to get better! Don’t you know your life is going down?”

No! That’s not what he does. What he does is he steps in. The judge is just saying, “Cut it down! Why does it even use up the soil?” And he steps in. And the first thing he does is he speaks to the judge. Not the failure fig tree. He speaks to the judge and he says, “Stop it. Stop it. Wait. Wait.” Before he does anything. And I’m gonna pause here cause I want you to understand this. Because if we don’t get to stopping the judgment, we don’t understand the faith. We don’t understand Jesus’ message.

Jesus Christ came into that debate of us not being where we need to be and us being accused and feeling guilty, and He stepped in, and He says, “I’m gonna say to the judge, ‘Stop it! I’ll take it. I’ll pay the ticket. Stop the judgment.’” Before He tells anybody to get better.

See, the problem so many times in our families, in our relationships, is we’re like one of those rigid churches. Right? You ever been to one of those? Bunch of you might have grown up in one. You know the church I’m talking about. They’re black and white, and everything’s, yeah, they’re, they’reallholy, andtheyhavethe, you know, heavy handed, and you gotta be good. And you know, we’re holy...

Have you all seen these people? Right? They’repreachingthetruth, and gragragragragra. And they have a membership requirement to be there. You’ve got to be holy. You gotta be good to be one of us.

Now, you go to a really good recovery group, for example. Go to AA or SA or EverythingA or whatever it is. Or just a really good group of spiritual friends. We have a membership requirement over here, too! Their requirement is you gotta be holy, you gotta be good, you gotta be perfect. Our membership requirement, they’ll tell you, is you gotta be screwed up to be in this club, baby. Right? And you walk in, and you say, “Oh, man, I blew it!” And they go, “Hi, Henry, you’re in the right place, dude. You won’t believe what I did yesterday.” And they embrace you.

And see, over here, if you start to show that you don’t have fruit in some area, you start to show that you’ve, you’ve, like, you know, you think these things or you screwed it up or you got this going on and you can’t stop it or whatever it is. If you start to show, “Oh, I’ve been depressed,” or, you know, whatever. They have a term for it. Now, it changes from club to club. Depending on your denomination. But it’ll be like, “Well, you must not be naming and claiming it right,” or: “Blabbing and grabbing it right,” or: “You’ve lost your walk,” or: “You’re not walking with the Lord,” or: “You’ve—” you know.

But the problem is, here’s the problem. The problem is, if you’ve got a problem, if something’s wrong in your life, they think something’s wrong! I’m gonna say that again. If something’s wrong in your life, they think something’s wrong with you. Or if you had your spiritual life, you know, how can you be...

Over here, if something ain’t wrong, they’ve got a term for that, too. It’s called denial. “You think you got it all together, dude? Go look in the mirror. Cause we can see it.”

You see, the difference is, over there, people look good, but they get sicker. And over here, people look real, but they get better. And here’s what the Bible says. Jesus said, Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous or those that think they’re righteous. I came to call the rest of us. The ones that miss the mark.” And he said, “I didn’t come to condemn you and judge you. But I came to seek and to save that which was lost and broken in your life.”

And, see, over here, here’s what the Bible says, “If we say we’re without sin”—can I say that word?—“sin.” We’ve really screwed up that word. You know what sin means in the Bible? Sin means missing the mark. It’s a bow and arrow shooter hitting the target. And I’m supposed to treat my wife this way. I’m supposed to treat my kids this way. I’m supposed to have these business results. And I miss the bullseye. I miss the mark. That’s what sin means. And the Bible says if we say we’re without it, the truth is not in us; we’re in denial.

I remember a man struggled so much with depression, a perfectionistic family that he grew up with. And I remember, one day, he told me something, he was a little boy, and he said he walked out in the yard, and his father looked at the neighbor’s yard, his perfectionistic father, he looks at the neighbor’s yard, and he goes, “You know, look at Jones’ yard.” He said, “That thing is perfect. And you know they tell me he sees a psychiatrist? Who would need a psychiatrist if you got a yard like that?”

Your kid, for one.

So here’s my question. Where’s your advocate? See, a lot of times, as Christians, we say, “Thank God that He accepts me and He loves me.” But we don’t experience advocacy in the way the Bible talks about it. The Bible says that we open up to God and He loves us and He accepts us, and He says, “Wait a minute,” to the judgment, and there is no condemnation. Yet we feel bad and we feel condemned. How is it that somebody that the Bible says there is no condemnation for, the person who’s trusted Jesus—that penalty has been paid past, present, and future—and yet we walk around feeling bad and condemned? I’ll tell you why. Because, for the most part, feelings come through our, you know, limbic system, how we’re wired in these bodies that produces these feelings of accusation and guilt and shame.

And it’s interesting. The book of James puts it this way. It’s interesting to me, this recovery world over here was founded on the book of James in the Bible. By the Oxford group. And one of the key passages there is James 5:16, it says this: “Confess your faults”—your brokenness, your sins, your hurt, everything that’s not—“confess these to one another.” Confess means to just agree that we have ‘em. “Confess your faults to one another so that you may be healed.”

See, judgment... a judge sits and hits the gavel and the judgment, it’s over. And when we judge each other, it’s over. It doesn’t heal. Game over. A judge is not session one in a rehab. A judge is a sentence. Yet we see husbands and wives every day judging each other for the gap.

What if, what if, what if, with your kid, where you’re stuck in the cycle, or that employer, or that friend, or whatever, where they’re not reaching that expectation, or yourself... what if you didn’t stop at number two? And you let the Holy Spirit have a voice? Because the Advocate lives inside of you if you have received Him. And at the moment of your kid’s failure... or at the moment of your friend’s failure, or your employer—your own. At that moment, instead of cutting them down and being angry with a legal response and judging, what if we said, “You know, it’s okay. I know this is the moment when I usually go psycho on you. I’ve really found that, I’ve learned that that’s not helpful. I’m sorry I get mad. From now on, when this happens, can we do it differently? I wanna, I just wanna tell you I’m for us. And I’d like for us to solve this. I’m not gonna yell at you anymore. I want to help. How can I help?”

When things change... you know, it’s interesting. I think it was last year’s Summit. It might’ve been the year before. I think it was last year. But there’s a session by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar who put the culture together and the merger. And “How did all these great movies come out of Pixar?” they ask him.

Talk about cultivate. He said, “We had to cultivate a culture where it could happen.” And you know, he went through that, but what he said was, “How do you get a Nemo or a Toy Story or all those...” Here’s what he said. They start with the expectation we wanna have the greatest movie ever made. And they start with the reality of inspecting it, and he starts to work, after the script has been worked on and handed in, here’s our final product, you know what they start with? He judges it, and he says, “This sucks!” That’s how they start! Go read it.

And he says to the team, “Our job is to make it not suck.” And in that one statement, he’s done away with the judgment. He said, “It’s normal for a script to not be where we want it to be. And it’s not bad that it’s like this. It just means it’s human. Now let’s put our arms together and dig around and fertilize and make it better.” And they take away the judgment. And he has rules to take away judgment. There’s no bad idea. Ideas have no rank. If the assistant has an idea, it’s as powerful as the CEO. It’s an idea. We’re just looking for what helps. And they take away judgment.

If you have an executive team, for example, in a thriving business, what you’re gonna see is, when they have a problem, and it’s not working, they run to their team and go, “Guys, I’m blowing it here with this customer. It’s not working. It’s falling apart.” And everybody joins and says, “Hi, we’re happy you’re here.” They put their arms around him, and they give themselves to each other. And I see teams like this, and they thrive. You have other companies, something’s not going well, “Well, it’s marketing.” You know, or: “It’s R&D.” Or it’s somebody else. Because the judgment is so much, nobody can say, “Hey, I need help.”

So where do you have your advocacy?

Bill and I used to do a thing for leaders up on Lake Michigan, and we’d bring them in, twenty-five or so, for an evening or a day. Pastors. And I’d give ‘em this questionnaire. 70 to 80 percent of them said they have no place where they can go and fully talk about where they’re really struggling. And the message of the Bible is that’s the whole message. That’s what God wants for us.

 But it’s not all He wants for us. It’s not all He wants for us. He doesn’t want to say to this tree, “You know, it’s okay, go three more years. I don’t care.” No, that’s not what He says. A lot of people think that’s the Christian message. “Oh, God’s forgiven me of everything.” I have nonbelievers say, “You’re one of those Christians who think God just forgives you of everything, you can do whatever you want or live however you want or whatever?”

I said, “No, that’s not what it says. It says He forgives us for everything, and then He’ll help us to do better, because He wants that for us.”

So what Jesus says is: “I’m gonna come in, and I’m gonna dig around, and I’m gonna fertilize, and I’m gonna give it some more time.”

My youngest daughter, Lucy, when she was about—she’s fifteen now—when she was seven-ish, getting into kinda math problems and all that, she wasn’t doing well. And her scores kept coming back. And I’m kinda getting bugged at her grades because I know she’s smart and I think she’s lazy. Because her favorite word in life—I knew this—I mean, her favorite word was later. You know, “This is gonna be painful? Oh, I’ll do that later.” And homework kinda fell into that bucket. And so it was always a little bit of a struggle.

But her grades were showing it in math. And so I’m kinda getting bugged at her. And so she had brought home another bad grade. And so this one night, I said, “Alright, Luce. You’re doing all of those problems tonight. You know, you keep putting some of this stuff off. You’re gonna finish ‘em tonight.”

Waaaaaa, no! It’s too hard!”

“Lucy...”

And we get in this kind of tug-of-war thing. I’m going, “Look, I have all night. I don’t have to be at work till eight in the morning. So we’ll sit here until you finish ‘em.” I said, “Now, I know you wanna go—”

Waaaa—

“I know you wanna go to bed, and the best way to go to bed is to finish all these problems. So I’m just gonna sit here and wait until you do.”

So I’m watching, cause I knew she was kind of avoiding this and resisting it, and, you know, you’ve gotta have boundaries, I read that somewhere, and so... she’s doing her problems, and I watch her do the problems, and then every now and then, I watch her do this little twitch. I’m looking at this, not saying anything, I’m looking at it. She did it again. I said, “Lucy, stop. Talk about the problem out loud.”

She goes, “What do you—”

I said, “Tell me what you’re doing, the math in your head.”

Here’s what I found. Every time, in this division problem, every time there was a six, she did that little quick thing. And you know what she was doing? She wasn’t writing down a number because she didn’t know her sixes. Every time she hit a six, she just put something down. I said, “Lucy, what’s six times...” and I’d ask her, and...

At that moment, and I don’t remember if it was there I just held back the tears or I went in another room, but I just said, “God, forgive me. Forgive me. I’ve been having an expectation and thinking she’s just not doing it. And I’m cutting her down, pushing her and getting mad, and I wanna go to bed, why are you resisting? And she didn’t know her sixes.”

So I said, “Luce, you know what? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done this. But I do think maybe we could practice our sixes tomorrow. Let’s get some flashcards. Let’s make a game of this.” We went to work on our sixes.

See, had to do some digging. Stop the judgment and ask, I wonder why this kid that I know wants to do well can’t. Is it just cause she’s bad? No, she doesn’t know her sixes. I gotta dig around to find that answer. But then I gotta fertilize her. Fertilizer is what we bring to the plant that it can’t produce for itself. There is no such thing as self-help. Who’s the rescuer and who’s the drowning one in that party? Think about it. We gotta fertilize, we gotta give the plant what—she needed her sixes.

Anybody got a pen here? Can I borrow a pen?

[Coughs]

What’d you put on this thing? No, I’m kidding, I’ve been fighting a cold. Sorry.

Okay, so here’s a pen. Now, should this pen write? Is that a reasonable expectation? Anybody? Yeah, it oughtta write, right? Of course it ought to write. This thing should write, right? It ought to write. It’s a pen. Let’s say, “Pen, should you write? I want you to write, ‘Yes!’”

Bad pen! Pen! You’re a pen! You oughtta be able to do this, Lucy! You ought to be able to do this math. Come on! Do it! You ought to be able to—you’re a pen! You’re seven years old. Or a spouse or a worker or whoever it is. You should be—or yourself: I should be able to pull this off. I should be able to lose this or stop this or get to the next level. I should! I’m a pen, look at me!

Well, cut it down, then. Why are you even carrying this stupid thing around? It’s taking up space.

But see, we start to do a little digging around, and I go, “Oh, I’m so sorry, pen. I know you gotta go get some self-pen help. But you’ve been saying to me, ‘There ain’t no ink in here, Daddy.’” And see, how many times, you know, some people, I’ve seen ‘em rail at spouses: “He oughtta, he oughtta, he oughtta...”

Okay, I know he oughtta. But he doesn’t. So let’s ask him whoever taught him to really talk and share and empathize and understand. I don’t think there’s any ink in there. So aren’t we the stupid one, really? Really? Aren’t we?

But if we dig around and we find out, maybe, maybe it needs fertilizing, maybe we’ve gotta put into it what it doesn’t have to meet the requirement, what would happen then? See, what would happen then is what God does with us. There’s a requirement: Pens should write. This culture that says you should get a trophy for breathing! It’s the stupidest thing that ever came about. This crap of a world without expectations. Are you kidding me? That kid’s gonna have a spouse that doesn’t give him a trophy... for playing video games through Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t get five stars for that!

Life has expectations. But we have a God that doesn’t judge us. It says, “It’s okay that you’re like you are, let me dig around and find out why. I will pour the ink into you.”

And “Thank you, Jesus!” says the pen that can now write.

Because God didn’t judge it, didn’t throw it away, He came and put the ink in it. And the pen responded.

Thank you. Go now and do likewise.

I’ll close with this. I had a friend who’s a chairman of the board of a Christian organization. And he called me, he said, “You know, our president”—of the corporation; not the president—“our president of the organization has a tweeting addict—” No, I’m just kidding. “Has a...” He said, “Our president, I’m really worried about him.”

I said, “What’s wrong?”

He said, he said, “He’s gained a hundred and fifty pounds.” And he said, “I’m really worried about him.” He said, “His diabetes is kicking in. His father died of a heart attack at a young age. He’s got kids.” He said, “I’m really worried about him, and the doctor put him on an exercise program and diet and it, is, and, you know, he’s, it’s just, it’s not working.”

And I said, “What’s happening?” I said, “What are you doing?”

He said, “Well, he’s on this program. Exercise and diet.”

And I said, “Well, is he sticking to it?”

And he said, “Well, no, not really.”

I said, “Well, what are you doing about it?”

And he said, “Well, I’m his accountability partner. See, it wasn’t working. So I agreed to be his accountability partner.”

And I said, “What do you do?”

He said, “I meet with him each week and hold him accountable.”

I said, “Well, to what?”

He said, “Well, to his diet and exercise.”

I said, “Well, is he doing it?”

He said, “Well, no. He starts, but then he doesn’t.”

I said, “Well, what do you do then, when you hold him accountable?”

He said, “Well, I hold him accountable.”

I said, “But when you hold him accountable, what do you do?”

He said, “Well, I hold him accountable.”

I said, “But he’s not doing it.”

He said, “I know. And I hold him accountable.”

I said, “Is it, is it working?”

He said, “No, he’s gained in weight.”

I said, “Do you love this man?”

He said, “Absolutely.”

I said, “You’d better call him and tell him you’re gonna stop holding him accountable, or you’re gonna kill him!”

He said, “What are you talking about? I gotta hold him accountable.”

I said, “You are going to kill him! If that’s your method. Cause that’s the vineyard owner coming in for three years, for six months, I’ve been looking for you to stay on this diet—for three years.” I said, “There’s no grace here.”

He said, “No, you don’t understand.” He said, “I totally forgive him and accept him.”

I said, “That’s not grace. That’s a manifestation of grace. But, see, grace is God’s unmerited favor. Grace is where He comes in and He finds the truth that this man can’t pull it off. He can’t stay sober in this area. But then the grace is not a grace period, like a credit-card company. Are you kidding me? There’s no denomination called Visa. God’s grace period is not ‘I’m gonna take a nap while I let you suffer.’ No, grace is when He comes in, and He gives to the plant what it can’t produce for itself.” I said, “Obviously, this man has no self-discipline.”

He goes, “You’re—that’s the problem! Self-d—I’m gonna, he needs to get some self-discipline!”

I go, “Which self is he gonna get it from? You said he had none.”

“I know. He needs to get some self-discipline.”

I said, “Where’s he gonna get it?”

He said, “Well, self-discipline from himself.”

I said, “Where is he gonna get it?! He doesn’t have any fertilizer! There’s no ink in the pen! Each week, you’re sending him out there to get a better grade, demanding it. But there’s nothing changing.” I said, “He needs self-discipline, and he’s not gonna get it from himself.”

He said, “Where’s he gonna get it?”

I said, “From grace. That’s what the Bible says.”

See, grace is unmerited favor. 1 Peter 4 says that God, when we use our gifts with each other and love each other, that we’re administering the grace of God in its various forms. Grace is me teaching Lucy her sixes. Grace is an addict who goes to a group and they put their arms around him or her, and they say, “Look, when you start to feel this from your family,” you know, and they encourage each other, and they call that sponsor. Or when you go, finally, the couples start warring and say, “Let’s get an advocate in here with us who knows how to do the surgery and teach us the skills.”

And I guarantee you, it’s not just communication. I hear that all the time. Couples say, “Well, we just need to communicate better.” No you don’t! there’s no better way to say, “I hate you, you scumbag”! There’s no good way to say that. You gotta dig up the source of that awful contempt. Cause it’s killing you.

 

But we’ve gotta go somewhere where the digging is good.

And I said, “So you got five guys that love this guy?”

And he says, “Yeah.”

“Well, Joey’s, Joey’s healthy, he shows up at Monday with grace. Knocks on the door: ‘Lunch, come on, we’re going for a thirty-minute walk.’ Tuesday, somebody else has got some self-discipline to give to your president, shows up on Tuesday, he says, ‘Come on, I’m going to the gym. We’re going to the gym today.’ Wednesday, somebody else, so...”

And the people with the ability come, and they build it into him. And then he internalizes it. And then, all of a sudden, we see him wake up one morning and go, “Oh, I don’t have time to do that cause I gotta go on my walk.” And it’s a fruit of the Spirit.

And see, the Spirit lives, as Jesus said, He will come, and He will live in you and you and you, and when you all get together, that Spirit will give your gifts to each other, and you’ll tutor me, and I’ll encourage you, and you’ll support me, and you’ll heal me. And I said, “For example, where is this guy going to process his pain?” I go, “He’s not hungry! Nobody’s a hundred and fifty pounds of hunger... extra. He’s self-medicating for something.” I said, “Has he had any losses?”

He said, “Like three or four people who died... last year and a half and other stuff.”

I said, “We gotta put him in a grief group.” I said, “Where’s that pain being taken care of?”

He goes, “Well, I guess nowhere.”

Bible says that the Spirit lives in his brother or sister and can sit down and then Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit can be that that Spirit can begin to indwell his brother or sister and weep with him while he’s weeping. And we know from the brain that when you weep with someone who’s weeping and your eyes meet, that that pain gets unclogged from one side of the brain and moves through a channel, it involves language and meaning and understanding, it turns into grief, and then it gets healed! But it doesn’t until the Spirit in the Spirit... where the Spirit is working. One of the places He’s working, and that’s in each other where we give each other this grace, and God gives it directly. And you gotta go where that is.

And, by the way, don’t go digging up in the wrong place. If you walk out of here, drive back to Willow tonight, let’s say you got your clock mixed up or you stayed late. You walk out of the parking lot. Guy walks up to you with a mask. And a knife. Out of the darkness. Grabs you. Stabs you in the gut. Rips you open. Scrape for lunch, right. Steals—takes all your money. Leaves you lying, a bloody mess, unconscious, takes all your money and leaves. What do we call that? It’s a mugging, it’s a felony. It’s wrong. It’s bad.

If you go down here a few miles to the hospital, and you can go into a room there, and a guy walking with a mask and a knife and cut you open and take all your money, and leave you unconscious... we say, “Thank you, doctor!”

See, there’s a difference. Don’t go to muggers! Go to people that have scrubbed. That have a little wisdom. Let God do His digging. In your company, call somebody in to help you, if you need ‘em. In your marriage... teach each other the sixes. Don’t demand As and get angry when your spouse isn’t what they should be. But say, “Come on, baby, let’s go find some sixes.”

Let’s let God do what He does. He didn’t come to judge. He came to seek and to save that which was lost and broken in our lives. And, Willow, that’s my prayer for you. And I love you. Tha