Sunday, April 22, 2012

Digging In The Dirt

Tears...for the most part we don't like to see them come but once they do, they are like a shower to our soul and a bath for our heart.  Nothing cleanses and renews our emotions quite like tears.  I confess, recently the tears of my soul burst forth like a broken dam.  Sometimes life packs a mean punch leaving us feeling as if we have been in a free for all with a wild bear.  I feel certain we all feel this way at times!  God built in us a "relief valve" when the pressure of life builds up it seems, so tears are a good thing.  Labors of love are hard work sometimes.  The soil may be hard and roots may be buried deep choking out what we have planted.  It is at these times that "tears" come.  Be grateful for those tears. They will water that hard dry soil to create a fertile place for love to grow...

On any given day, when my son, Josh was small, I would find him doing something that all children do – digging in the dirt.  I can’t really recall what, or if anything, he found through this exploration, but it never deterred his excitement and interest in digging.  I’m sure his childhood imaginations envisioned all sorts of “buried treasure” and priceless artifacts. (Not to my surprise he chose to study Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeology in college!)   My little boy with stick, toy shovel or a piece of broken rock or anything else he could find in hand, would begin his daily task of digging.  If there were no tools available, He had God-given ready tools – his hands.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he could see where “X” marks the spot and head straight for a pile of dirt or sand.  One day he came home from daycare and I noticed he was breathing a bit strange.  I thought maybe he was coming down with a stuffy nose or something that kids just find a way of sharing in school.  After careful examination, I found the source of my son’s struggle.  He had been “digging” during recess and stuck a little pebble up in his nose.  I suppose it seemed the safest placed to hide his treasure!   Thankfully, through the help of my father and a little pair of tweezers, we were able to retrieve his “treasure”.

Digging in the dirt.   Most children do it for fun and adventure and sometimes out of sheer boredom.   My dad was born and raised in a country setting so “digging in the dirt” wasn’t just a childhood activity; it was a way of life for them.  My grandparents always planted huge vegetable gardens, so at an early age the children learned the value and necessity of “digging in the dirt”.  There was much more to this than just a fun day of searching for “treasure”.  If a garden is to grow, the soil has to be right.  It cannot be hard or dry, but must be broken up and tilled, then adequately moistened before the seeds are planted.  This process is not “fun” as it was for my son on his “exploration days”, but is a lot of hard, hot and tiring work.   I’ve listened to my dad tell about tilling the garden with a mule and staying straight and steady on the rows until every inch of soil was broken up.  I have to confess, as a “city girl”, I have no concept of such labor.  It was tedious and required consistency.  Not just the tilling, but the daily follow-up.  Seeds can’t just be planted and left to develop on their own.  Gardens have to be tended to with great consistency each and every day if there is to be a harvest.  But if they are tended to with such consistency - what a harvest!  My grandparents continued their passion for farming into their senior years.  I remember looking out over the little mountain behind their house seeing rows of tall corn as far as the eye could see.  And I couldn’t wait until the season when large, luscious watermelons would be taken from the watermelon patch.  One of my favorite places was the two little plum trees right in the back yard.  The peas, green beans, squash and corn on the cob my grandmother cooked didn’t taste anything like those “store bought” vegetables.  They were actually good!  
Digging in the dirt.  "Hard work?"  Yes.  “Will my hands get dirty?”  Yes.  “Will I have to dig dirt out from under my fingernails?”  Probably.  “Do I really have to kneel or sit in the dirt and get my feet and knees stained?”  Yes, it’s the only way to dig deep.  “But it is so hot.  I am so tired and I still haven’t seen anything coming up out of the dirt.”  Just keep digging.  Keep tilling.  Keep planting.  Keep watering.  Without a doubt this whole garden experience was a tough one.  When I was a child and listened to my dad’s stories of “country life”, something seemed a bit strange.  He always talked about what hard work it was, yet if you visited our home, you would see a small to medium vegetable garden each and every year in our own back yard!  Why in the world would he want to do the very same thing he seemed to hate as a child?  Because he understood harvest.  He longed for the freshness of the peas, green beans and corn.  His mouth craved the sweetness of the watermelon.  Tomatoes in the store would never compare to the juicy, red tomatoes he had cultivated with his own hands, by digging in the dirt.  What are you craving today?  Is there someone you love who has drifted far away from the love and the comfort of  family and friends?  Is there a relationship hanging in the balance?  Is there a sick child or parent or friend who is losing hope of ever becoming well?  Is there someone discouraged and being choked by the weeds of “life” literally dying on the vine?  Is darkness trying to steal your dream?  Distract your purpose?  Rob your promise?  Don’t stop digging.  Don’t stop tilling.  Don’t stop planting.  Don’t stop watering.  So what if you have to get your hands dirty?  So what if the sun is hot and every muscle in your body aches?  Life is literally in your hands.  Harvest depends on you.  There is a passage that I've often read that says that those who "sow in tears will reap in joy."  It is so true.

I think again about my little boy digging in the dirt.  Sometimes, he would scrape his knee or cut his finger.  Tears would come and his cries would send me running to his side.  A hug and a smile and guess what?  It wasn’t long before he was right back out there – digging in the dirt again!  Sometimes the “task” requires “tears” before there is a “treasure” – a harvest.  Use those tears to water the “soil” and keep digging!   Last night I was meditating and thinking of someone who I have been "digging in the dirt" for in my prayers and words of encouragement for a very, very long time.  If you've had someone in your life like this you understand what I feel.  It’s as if you can feel their heart, their struggles in your very own heart and soul.  So each time I wake in the middle of the night with them on my mind, I send up good thoughts and prayers for them.  Each day when thoughts of them interupt my day, I do the same.  If I feel a special "whisper in my heart" to share just a few words of encouragement or express love to this person, I send them what has been burning inside.  Along with thoughts of this person, I also had thoughts of other areas of my "garden" that were not producing in my life - some of my own dreams not yet fulfilled, goals not reached, family members struggling, some in poor health or with financial strains.  I have to be honest.  Last night as I sent out thoughts and prayers realizing that to this point I've seen no results, no harvest, I felt very, very tired.  I didn’t want to “dig in the dirt” anymore.  As I meditated on all these situations, I quite frankly said out loud, “God, I don’t want to do this anymore.  I have asked You to help in all these situations, but still, nothing.”  Then something truly Divine happened. I visualized the situations again, but this time, I saw them with my “heart’s eye”.  I realized... I did have a choice.  We all have a choice.  I didn’t have to keep being the "Divine's" touch of love.  I didn’t have to keep “digging in the dirt”, didn’t have to keep burying my knees in the soil of prayer and meditation, or watering the seed with God’s love, care and encouragement.  But then what?  Then the “harvest” might never be.  I must be consistent laboring with love in “digging in the dirt”.  What if the seed wasn’t watered?  What if the soil wasn’t kept loose and moist?  What if weeds of doubt, distraction and discouragement kept growing and no one plucked them out?  As I sat in deep solitutde of thought and emotion, tears and more tears came.  When I got up this morning, the tears began again.  So I keep burying my knees in meditation and prayer, “digging in the dirt” of conflict and hurt and believe that through this brokenness of the soil, the seed is being watered with tender tears of compassion and love.  Somehow as I dig this today, I sense growth just under the soil - life stirring and the refreshing showers of love pouring over the dry parched soil of each situation.  I believe with all my heart that the day will come when I see those golden rows of “corn”, I taste that sweet watermelon.  If you are “digging in the dirt” today, just keep digging, keep planting, keep watering!  There is a harvest – they that “sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”