Monday 12/19/2016 6:35 AM
I have not watered my front lawn for nearly two years due to the drought in California. My once manicured lawn has died and the ground is hard and barren with a few clumps of brown Bermuda grass trying to cling to life. A few weeks ago we received our first rain of the new season and this past week we received over half an inch, a welcome relief from the dryness. When I went to bring out the trash the other day I noticed the ground has softened, the barren spots are beginning to green up with baby shoots of winter rye grass and the Bermuda clumps are showing signs of life.
My lawn mirrors my spiritual life right now. Over the course of the past few months I have not watered my soul by spending time reading the Bible, contemplating what it is saying to me, and reflecting on how I can best live out my faith as I go about my daily routine. The near death of my nephew last winter, the grave infections my brother-in-law fought in the spring, and the declining health and eventual death of my mom throughout the summer and the fall did a number on me and I could not bring myself to read the Bible, or even to pray. Like my lawn, my soul is hard and barren, with just a few clumps of faith trying to cling on to hope.
This morning I opened my devotional material for the first time in over two weeks. My assigned reading included Psalm 65:9-12, “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.” The image of God sending rain to soften the ground and the image of the wilderness becoming an overflowing grassland reminded me of my front lawn being softened and greened up by the recent rains. My assigned reading also included James 5:7-8, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” This gives me hope that God will shower me with his gentle love to drench my furrowed soul, to level the wall-like ridges I have built, and to soften my hardened heart. That gentle love of God can come through the words of scripture, like it did this morning, or it can be transmitted through the loving words and actions of the people with whom I interact. More often than not it is through people, the loving intimacy of close friends and the kindness of complete strangers.
This dry time in my life has caused me to question the genuineness of my relationship with God. Was the intimacy I have experienced in the past merely a figment of my imagination, a human construct for a feeble mind, as some would suggest? Does the fact that I have no desire to even read the Bible or pray indicate that my faith is useless in times of trial? Does it disappear when I need it most? Thoughts like these have pelted me like hailstones over the past weeks. This morning the writing of Maria Boulding in her book, The Coming of God, brought me hope. She writes, “If you want God, and long for union with him, yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes. If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that you have no strength even to want [God], yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life. If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn into the central mystery of salvation.”
This holiday season is one that exudes joy and happiness for many, but that is not the case for me this year. I have a feeling there are many others like me who are struggling with what life has dealt them throughout this year. Their lives may be as hard and barren as mine. Will I be someone who sucks whatever tiny hope of life that remains out of them or will I be the love of God for them, someone who is a gentle rain in their lives, softening the hard ground, drenching their furrowed ground, and causing the barren dryness to become a green pasture that sustains them in the struggle? I pray that, just as people have encouraged me during my struggle, I can be a purveyor of green pastures.