God in the Yard: Week Two
"Spiritual life and growth is complicated by the question of whose job it is to keep our lives from falling into nothing." -- L.L. BarkatThis week, the Salvia were engorged with blooms, the Columbine were coming to their grand finale, the Jack Frost was saying a sweet good-bye with his dainty blue flowers, the Hostas were just emerging with force and fullness. And this week we had a hailstorm.
There was utter helplessness in my chest that night. All the beauty that I had partnered with the plants to create was decimated. Cleared away. I could do nothing to save them. I could only hope they would endure into the next season. As I deadheaded the beds last night I found myself encouraging them onward. You don't have to fall into nothing. There's still life left in you. Keep trying to grow. I'll help.
Around me, lives are falling into nothing. Friends who once had strength are currently powerless. Those in a place of influence are finding that fewer and fewer are paying attention anymore. Among them is a sense of general ineffect. And though their great griefs tug at me, in some sense it reassures me that everything is as it should be.
It's the ebb and flow. One cannot be hot all the time, though we fool ourselves into thinking it's possible. My experience says that the ebbs are what's real and the flows are really a sort of appearance. What's for certain is the rhythm. When we are full the thing that assuredly comes next is a great emptying.
If that's true, then is there anything that can be done to keep my life from falling into nothing? And if there is, then does that effort fall to me or to God?
Years ago, the depths of my Calvinism would have pronounced, "Whatever will be, will be." Through the miracle of wandering homelessness I saw that in the end there's nothing I can really do. No one is truly self-made. In recent years,however I felt more of that effort falling to me, a sort of gift from God who says, "In this season you can take some of the reigns, but be wary of snakes in the way of the horse." I recognize the partnership we keep with God much more readily, and as a result my part has risen from nothing to actual service. And still when we fly he keeps us aloft; when we fall he inclines to rescue us.
I believe it's my job to preserve my soul because there are not six degrees of separation that will do it on my behalf. Not my identity. Not my husband. Not my reputation -- my previous story. What grows me is my service, my following a prompting, my disciplines, my open heart, my seeking... and my falling. And yet, I also believe it is God's job to preserve my soul because the Spirit of God has been given that role to move, to prompt, to focus. It is a partnership of sacrifice and submission, not primo and secundo, but as in most things of love, it is both/and.
I do not know how my garden will fare this summer. Once the leaves are gone, and they are not all gone, how can the plant produce its food? But I believe that the earth will replenish; that it is far more enduring than I. Everything is as it should be. And everything will be changed.