This year we’ve put the garden in the front yard. I got a bit of a late start on it, though, and didn’t want to take the time, or the expense, to till. Dad did a little research and we decided that spraying down the grass with vinegar then covering it with dirt would have to suffice.
Coming to this decision was not as simple as it sounds.
After hosing down our 16×4 plot of grass with vinegar we pinned down a plastic tarp. Our hope was that the sun and vinegar would work together to kill off the grass.
Then came the dirt.
Who knew that there were so many types of dirt to buy?
I stood at Lowe’s fretting over which bags. The cheapest? Definitely not the most expensive ones. Compost? Fertilizer? I felt so silly trying to figure out which bags
In the end I decided on the next to cheapest dirt I could find. It said ‘natural’, but when Spencer and I got it home and cut a bag open it smelled anything but natural. It smelled like death.
Except, I guess death is natural.
We spread it out over the dying grass, each of us taking turns with the garden rake. I loved the way that dark, rich dirt looked when we poured it out. I felt quite proud of our little patch. Every morning Spencer and I would come out and dig through a little patch to check on the death of the grass. Most of it was white and wilted, unable to withstand the weight of the dirt.
A few persnickety pieces of the green stuff continue to poke through the surface, though, and have to be pulled. I’ve got to be diligent.
Whenever I am busy in the garden parables come to mind. It’s easy to see why Jesus taught in parables. Working with my hands, being part of creation, always makes me think on the teachings of Christ. It feeds my hunger for deep thinking. I examine God’s divine nature, think on his goodness, and am so grateful for tomato plants.
The parables seem all at once simple and tricky.
That dirt and grass, though, they were teaching me something. The lesson has just taken a few weeks to catch up to me.
I’m learning about Jeremiah with some friends, a few certain women, over the summer. I tend to skip over the prophets because they seem so …troubled.
Jeremiah is one of my husband’s favorites, though, so I decided to give him a go. It turns out he’s one of Eugene Peterson’s, too. I found a great study by Peterson that we’ve been using. It’s called Excellence: Run with the Horses. Immediately we noticed that Jeremiah is kind of a downer. In fact he’s known as the ‘weeping prophet’.
Rightfully so, since he had the unfortunate task of announcing Israel’s impending destruction.
As the Lord helped Jeremiah reach an understanding with his role in his people’s future God said these words to him:
Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 31:28
There it was, my comfort, those words I highlighted in green.
Maybe your comfort, too?
God doesn’t destroy because it’s in his power. Our Creator always has a plan to build and to plant.
This gives me relief (and hope) because no matter what devastation my life suffers, the Lord is always working a plan to build and plant.
It’s like after a forest fire there’s the opportunity for regrowth.
Destruction feels brutal and non-recoverable. Even when you know with your brain that you will make it through a Hard Time, your soul is dying a death that will leave you changed.
In a sense, you won’t recover because you will be a different you on the other side of grief. As I read parts of Jeremiah I recognize the echo of the story of my life, too. He has certainly been overseeing the destruction of my earthly kingdoms which had been set up in the artifices of career, finances, church, and material things.
When we left the ministry we didn’t realize we were walking away from a worldly domain of our own making.
I didn’t realize how dependent I was on our plan for Lee’s career for security or my possessions for my identity. Losing those things put us on shaky ground for a little bit. Recovering from that self-imposed destruction has been life changing for all of us. I’d say we all feel more certain of God’s place in our lives and less certain of the world’s demands – not a bad place to be.
Not everything about our old life was bad, but not everything was God-directed, either.
Spraying that vinegar all over the grass felt wrong, but we knew it needed to be done.
It’s not always that easy with our lives, though, is it? Often the destruction is against our will. I’ve been there, too, where every fiber of your being is begging for the devastation to stop. I know what it’s like to wake in the middle of the night feeling fine when the sudden knowledge of your loss settles on your chest and replaces your even breathing with gasps. It’s as though while you’re asleep your body stops remembering the wound and then, upon waking, it all comes back.
I know that kind of pain, too.
Destruction of our earthly kingdoms is not without discomfort, even misery, but God will use it for a purpose, too. He will oversee building and planting and renewal.
He will make all things new.
I look at this garden knowing that it will bear fruit soon. I barely remember the patch of dead grass underneath it all.
That’s the amazing thing about being rebuilt. The old stuff becomes a building ground for the different stuff, the new stuff. I can’t say better stuff, though, because I know people who have lost more than jobs and bookcases. Losing people, be it babies in the womb or aged dear ones, is not the same as losing stuff. Life is always better with those we love. The part of life that comes after them can’t be better…only different, and new.
New growth will always come after devastation. I believe that.
The first year after we left ministry felt like slow drowning. We paddled and paddled and still went under. We failed at finding a church, finding friends, finding a job. We lost our momentum and gave into the waves – and it seems that’s when we got to shore.
Sometimes you just have to give in to the devastation without knowing where it will take you. The miracle is that with some work, with some tender care, you’ll be looking at fullness again. Your old life will be under the surface offering up little aches and pains every now and then, but also giving you solid planting ground.
My life, my family’s lives, each look very different than they did 2 years ago. I cannot believe how full we are with community, church, and each other. The loneliness and heartache of 24 months ago seems so distant. Every now and then, though, it comes back through and I remember that God is still working that plan.
If you’re suffering under devastation, big or small, self-imposed or accidental, you’re not alone. You’re loved and cherished.
You will be made new.
Be brave in the devastation.
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