Working outside in the rain

It was rainy, miserable, and cold – cold to the tune of thirty-eight degrees.  Not only was it drizzling but it had been doing so for a long time, such that the ground, the trees, the air even seemed to be pregnant with wetness.  It was the kind of day that you don’t want to be outside, but rather indoors, perhaps sipping hot chocolate and cozying up with a good, old book.  But not me.

For over two decades my wife and I have enjoyed planting a garden every year.  Part of preparing for spring planting and summer harvest is getting the soil beds ready.  This year, however, ours needed a bit of extra love.  The wooden borders had a good amount of rot that needed to be torn out and replaced.

I had a full day off, and this was my window to get the work accomplished.  Only it was not the sort of day to be outside!  But out I went.  Rotten wood was removed, new wood was purchased and installed, all in the cold downpour.  After a good half-day complete with snotty nose, numb fingers and blistered hands, the work was finished.  Ready to plant!

I share this story because as I was doing the work (with, I add, a proper miserable attitude) I kept thinking about the last year of life in a pandemic, and how similar the two experiences were.

No, the work is not fun, but unless it is done we will not have a harvest.  Such is the spiritual life.

Much of pandemic existence has been simply pushing on through hopelessness and confusion.  Maybe like me you have faced many of your inner demons.  My propensity to laziness and denial have become quite evident in the last year.  And now here we are, preparing for the sun to shine and the crops to grow.  Will they?

It depends on the preparation.  Have we torn out old and rotten parts of our life so that we may build new ones in which something healthy can grow?  Have we dealt with things of the past that could sabotage the future?  Have we endured the cold and rainy season so we can still be around when the sun comes out?

I’m hoping so.  My experience in the garden last week reminded me of the importance of putting in the hard work when I don’t want to.  As a Christian that means I stay in the Bible even if it seems stale.  In a pandemic season when we have every excuse to stay away from people, confession and fellowship and brotherhood are more important than ever.

Solomon speaks to this in Ecclesiastes chapter 11.  “Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether one or the other will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.”

So whether it is morning or evening, rain or shine, easy or difficult, we press in and keep doing the next right thing.  I am concerned that in the aftermath of the great pandemic of 2020 many of us will check our gardens and realize that nothing has grown because we sat on our butts during the planting season.

Years ago a friend related a dream to me.  In the dream he saw a great, vast desert that extended in every direction as far as the eye could see, the ground full of cracks and crevasses from lack of rain.  The sun blazed in a cloudless sky.  A small black figure could be seen in the center of the desert, and he walked toward it.

Upon meeting this figure he discerned it to be an old woman in a black robe, hunched over, slowly swinging a hoe at the hard ground.  She stopped her work and looked up at him.  His eyes met her wrinkled face and she spoke pointedly:  “The planting of the Lord is so long.”  The dream ended abruptly.

I have thought on this for years.  I will leave you with this picture to ponder.  May we be filled with such faith and courage that fuel us to work in the pouring rain or scorching heat for the good harvest ahead.

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