Paying it Forward

Nov 19, 2014

I planted the beets according to instructions in September, refusing to let the cold dirt go to winter yet, and sure enough they grew, just like the paper packet said. I call my husband the Dirt Man because every spring he carefully turns over the hard ground, adding aged manure that we have to travel off-Cape for, sifting it through a screen, maybe adding some lime or compost, until it looks like finely ground coffee. I think you could grow kumquats in it, but I chose beets, radishes and kale, which elicits not even a small noise like Hmmm from the Dirt Man. Only now I wish I didn’t throw away the seed packet, because I can’t remember when the beets are ready. My friend Jane said she would’ve kept a Beet Diary, but we are very different in some ways and that’s one right there.

I walked out into the back yard early today to feed the birds and check the garden and saw the green grass coated in frost, giving it a slight turquoise hue. I bent down to the ground so I could look closely at it and marveled at each blade, that no man could so perfectly create something like frost, the morning dew turning to interlinking crystals with one northern breath before dawn.

I walked further back to the garden, wondering how my fall crop was fairing next to the blackened tomato and zucchini graveyard. The green leaves had withstood the frost; in fact I think the kale liked it. Then you wonder how something so fragile can survive, not to mention the 50 sparrows, 20 chickadees, four cardinals, a dozen mourning doves and some assorted finches, woodpeckers and blue jays that meet at the feeders each day. Winter is coming. As spring brings promise and expectation, fall bids life good night as the cold bears down upon the land. Then we wait…

I’ve been thinking about this place we all reach at some time, a place of waiting, with patience being stretched to the horizon. There are times when you see no life, only barrenness and silence with no hint of relief. In fact, it may get a lot colder, a lot darker before there is any sign of change. There’s pressure within and without to succumb to what we see. Faith is seeing the unseen. It’s hard when you’re looking at cold dirt, or empty chairs and the clock ticks forward regardless of whether you have anything to show for it.

Psalm 84 describes the Valley of Baca, or ”weeping”, as a dry and arid place, a place unaccommodating to travelers on their way to Zion. It is a place of tears for the pilgrim. It makes me think of the Plymouth pilgrims, how right about now they also saw the first frost, signaling another winter. And as they walked between the grave markers of friends and family, they gathered a meal, they sat with friends, and they gave praise to God as the ground froze beneath them. They dug a well with their thanksgiving. They sowed with tears.

 What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. Psalm 84:5-6 NLT

Before I met Jesus, I was definitely a runner and I don’t mean for exercise. My mother never let me forget about the time I ran away from home in the middle of doing dishes.

“She left the dishwasher door wide open,” she would laugh, “with a note on it that said, ‘Can’t take it anymore – Bird.’” That was my nickname. I know she didn’t laugh when she read it.

I ran from dishes, from landlords, from boyfriends and mostly boredom. Boredom was worse than death. If you want to send me to hell, send me somewhere where there is never anything at all to do; nothing. Or to a never-ending bridal shower.

I don’t run anymore. God has taught me well how to wait. But lately I feel like I am staring at just dirt. It’s not a terribly hard place for me, it’s just…empty. I don’t see refreshing, or revival or fountains of living water. I don’t even see beets. But I can thank Him for all He is doing that I don’t see, and the glory to come. And I can dig.

.William Carey, dubbed “the Father of modern Protestant missions”, spent 41 years in India, lost a son to dysentery, a wife to insanity and did not baptize his first convert for 7 years. Even at his death, only 700 converts could be accounted to Carey’s work in a nation of millions. Yet besides his work in translating the Bible into Bengalese, social reform and education, he is credited with inspiring men like Hudson Taylor, who spread the gospel in China and David Livingstone of Africa, to go. He dug a well in the Valley of Baca, with his own tears he filled it, and God caused it to overflow for the pilgrims behind him.

They go from strength to strength, each one appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7

 When I finally reach Zion, when I reach the land with no more cold dirt and no more tears, when I can finally see what my heart longs for each step of the way, let me enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, and a shovel in my hand, leaving a place of refreshing for those after me; paying it forward.

For Jehovah God is our Light and our Protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk along his paths. O Lord of the armies of heaven, Psalm 84: 11-12