The dust, fine and red, coats the plants lining our roads. Sweat beads on my upper lip. Last night as my children lay awake in bed, I stuck my head in and reminded them to keep guzzling plenty of water, after a friend of theirs landed in the clinic for dehydration. Cooking in the warm afternoons in my kitchen, with my hair twisted off my neck, I’ve been praying, coaxing the weather. C’mon, rainy season.
I suppose it parallels my parched insides the last few weeks. So many tasks to which I put my hand seemed to droop, languishing and limp. The cost-benefit ratio of my parenting, my career, and a handful of relationships seemed tilting precariously in the wrong direction. It’s funny how failure stirs up silty questions that had lain quiet in the soul.
What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? Does any of what I do matter?
A friend this past week had mentioned how, when we trust God in the dark, it’s amazing how so many things begin to happen.
Honestly? I was thinking, what about the times when you trust big, and nothing big happens? What about when everything feels sluggish, fruitless, and cracked?
Perhaps part of my withered outlook were the weeks I’d been away from the class I teach--I love!--at the refugee center. I’ve been prepping to do something new—something that wasn’t a slam dunk, but more of a venture; a sizeable, gulp-worthy leap. I was moving away from what worked, leaving that in the care of other teachers. I was opting for something that could either produce exciting results—life-changing ones in my students, I hoped—but that could also wilt in my hand. The stakes felt high.
Normally, I’m not beyond attempting items in the “are you loco?” category. But now, I wasn’t sure if I could stomach more mediocre, questionable results.
Yesterday, in faith of the rainy season—which in truth, has occasionally tarried until April (April!)—my ten-year-old and I transplanted a purple, spiky, unidentified shrub. He is anxious to use his new gardening tools, but cannot plant all his little seeds (“Jalapenos, Mom!”) until the season arrives. So he gleefully dumped black soil in the gaping mouth of the pot; gently nestled the plant in place; watered. I love the metaphor in these grubby, earthy actions: I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow.
It wasn’t lost on me. No matter how carefully my son tends his garden, no matter how he prepares, growth is ultimately out of his hands. Out of mine.
And two friends reminded me gently, What if we redefine success to mean “faithfulness”? Sure, God wants us to get excited about results, too. He’s designed purpose for us. But don’t forget the “fruit” in His eyes starts long before what we see.
This morning, I stirred in the early hours to a rushing sound outside of my flung-open windows; a deep rumbling had brought at least one child to bring pillows and blankets to the floor around our bed. And yes! The sunrise was grayed by pouring rain, sluicing down the sidewalk. I pulled the sheets taut around my shoulders.
And today, grinning and bubbling over, I addressed my new class. Somewhere, amidst the raised hands and laughter, I thought, I can’t believe I get to do this job. I felt the term’s potential ripening in my hands, sweet and red.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.
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