My Dear Friends, March 2021
We’ve made it to March, and the gardener in us begins to stir. Over the years I’ve discerned a rhythm to the gardening year: 1) While the snow blankets the ground and living things sleep underneath both, my gardening ideas are multiplying. Pumpkin patch planted by the kids of the church, vegetable victory garden maintained by the church family, a row of wildflowers along the fence, develop composting practices, etc etc.
[Still speaking of ideas: I’m a little pleased with the various beds from the front of 23 Chapel extending the length of the building. But the back yard beds still need work in conception and execution. Especially arriving at a plan for the north side strip – where historically a walkway ran from the parsonage – continues to bedevil. Anyone have thoughts?]
But back to the pattern I’ve observed: 1) [Review] Make big, unrealistic plans during the snowy months; 2) Come thaw, I run around like crazy – clean up, re-form beds, toss the shrubs that didn’t last the winter, mulch, till, plant; 3) Around the middle of April I begin to run out of steam and reality sets in: Most of my grand ideas won’t be realized; 4) End of June and weeds are coming fast and furious. For the first few weeks I try to keep up… ; 5) In the midst of end- -of- July’s stifling, relentless heat I’ve pretty much given up on the whole concept of gardening. Maybe try my hand at pastoring? 6) The living is easy and weather is cool in mid-October through mid- November: time for clean-up. Pruning. Handle leaves and more leaves. Bulb planting. The week before Thanksgiving is the final push of the season. I love this week, when the trees are denuded of their foliage, the outline of their branches crisp against the blue sky; the beds have been made tidy at least until the slush comes… everything looks neat; 7) And as the year turns, the mind starts to churn with ideas for next growing season.
And so it goes..
But here we are, 1 March, in the “juvenescence of the year,” coming up to the time of tilling. Along those lines, I’ve a proverb for you:
Proverbs 12: 11
Who tills his soil is sated with bread,
But who pursues empty things is sated with poverty.
Only the farmers and gardeners among us read that properly the first time. The rest of us heard, “who works hard is sated…” But our proverb zeros in on a certain kind of work, the labor to be undergone without the end anywhere close in sight.
What is in sight is a large patch of hard dirt with a few dandelions throughout. Or (leaving behind the gardening image) a couple hundred people who are, at this moment, only potential customers. Or simply mournful words on a page: Term Paper due 26 April.
True, tilling isn’t the only time there’s work. Harvest also requires work, but it’s easier work, might even be called joyous. And that’s because it’s quantifiable, it’s clear what to do, squarely and beautifully in front of you. Indeed, even before you set about the harvest work, something – actually the main thing – is already complete. And then there’s the barn dance afterward…
But who’s ever heard of “Tilling Parties”? Or “Diagramming Sentences Parties?” “Cold Call Parties?” “Clean Up the Toys After the 2-Year-Old Plays Parties”?
Nah! we save our celebrating for grand visions and the completion of those visions.
But look around that cold early March morning after a long winter and see if confetti drops when you’re gassing up the rototiller. [Or maybe you’re one of those hip gardeners who is eschewing the gaseous machine and going back to long forks… good on you!]
Yeah, when it’s all finally over, we’ll come to the party to celebrate your newly conferred academic degree. But we’ll arrive there with no knowledge of (and sorry, no interest in) those long nights when the thoughts didn’t flow, when you hit research walls that well-nigh crushed you, when you suffered alone.
We’ll know nothing of those tiny moments (when truthfully, we were already abed) when you decided: put your head down, locked your jaw, pressed on. When you toiled at dusk as we played Plants vs. Zombies. When Saturday mid-morning you opened your thesaurus for the 1000th time. And we headed out to the beach or the mall.
But at the end…. The end! You’ll have bread. And we’ll have a piece of your party cake. The points are: a) tilling is hard. And also b) there is a good place beyond the tilling.
Brothers and sisters – keep doing the tedious and obscure work. God is with you and for you. He wants you to do well.