Last week I awoke to the lovely sound of what seemed like every person in my neighborhood mowing his or her grass. This week, for the first time in a very long time the sun had come out, and the weather felt a lot more like spring than the 83rd day of February. (It was snowing here just two short weeks ago)
The welcome change in the weather and the subsequent sounds of lawn equipment running reminded me that it was time for me to get out into the yard. I decided this year that I would fill in the bare spots of the lawn and finally get around to planting that flowerbed outside the front window of the house.
As I spent most of the day digging, raking, pulling weeds, and planting things, I began to get excited about the prospect of what this new flower garden would look like. I imagined an idyllic scene sitting on my front porch and looking over to see a beautifully manicured flowerbed, full of colorful plants and flowers. I dreamed of rolling around my lush green lawn and feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment.
A few days later, I decided to check the progress of all that hard work. Much to my chagrin, the yard looked more like a project getting started than something out of Better Homes & Gardens. The grass had not grown full and green, the plants had not flowered, and everything was a mess. I felt neither joy or nor a sense accomplishment looking over my landscape. Instead, I felt angry and frustrated- I felt like I had failed. I had worked hard to get them going. I did everything the directions said to do to make these things grow- and here they were barely begging to sprout. I wanted those plants to grow, and I wanted them to grow today!
I find that in the church, like my yard, I have little patience for waiting. I worked hard today, and I want results tomorrow. I want to see flowers and green grass, but I forget all the hard work it takes to get there. Perhaps, many of you feel the same is true for you. We spend hours of time preparing the ground, pulling the weeds, planting, and watering- and sometimes things just do not grow the way that we want them to. We work hard, but it is easy to get frustrated with the slow pace of growth, and the ever present amount of hard work needed to simply keep things growing. We become frustrated when we do not see big and bold results. We lose hope or become despondent when the yard that does appear is not the yard we wanted to appear.
Sunday is Pentecost, a stark reminder that our hard work as a church is not quite over. When the Holy Spirit is the gardener, the results do not always look the way we might want- but there is always something going on, something growing and being nurtured. Even a yard of half-planted flowers and a few weeds can be precious in God's sight.
It is often hard for us to remember, but our role is to let go and enjoy the process. We also need to trust and appreciate that all that hard work will indeed pay off. Keeping the ground fertile for the movement of God’s Spirit is no easy task. Nevertheless, those moments of backbreaking labor and hands swollen with blisters all seem insignificant when God brings something new into the world.
So church friends, how do you feel about your spiritual yard? What do you do to help things grow? What keeps you motivated? What frustrates you?