Monday, June 16, 2014

Sowing and Reaping and all that Rubbish

I have been pulling lettuce from the garden almost daily for our salads this week. Big, beautiful mounds of crunchy Red Romaine and Mantila Butter Leaf. It's hard to believe they were seeds just a few weeks ago. The same goes for the tomato plants, which are climbing out of control and the basil that must think it's in some sort of Plant of the Year competition. Watching the process of growth from preparing the soil, to planting the seed, to waiting patiently, and then seeing this precarious seedling grow into something bountiful and edible and beautiful to behold, is astounding in a way. And yet, it's pretty scientific, pretty down to earth when you follow the "rules." The right conditions, the right procedure, and you are guaranteed a pretty sure outcome. Soil. Water. Sunlight. Temperate Climate. Oila-- harvest.

The boys traipsed off to their piano lesson this morning. It can feel a bit like the seed planting, this piano thing. Put in the hard work now and one day you'll sow a prodigy. That's not really it of course. I want them to enjoy and appreciate music, to give develop and flight to that possibility in them that may have an affinity for it, and to be able to give of that pleasure to others too. But these "building years" can play with your mind too. You can begin to believe that put in, put out... if you do it right and have all your worthwhile ducks in a row, you will grow a nice human. Lessons. Practice. Committment. Don't give up. And oila-- well rounded little musicians.

I picked up a book a few days ago that is fast turning into my obsessive summer-read. Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of New China by John Pomfret. I am a sucker for these memoirs and biographies about life in China. I especially love when the stories run deep, revealing the complex frailty and abiding strength of our humanness, both at once hard to understand in the worst moments of any nations history. How can we do these things to one another? How can we believe and live in these circumstances? How can we survive? How can there be any hope... for change? For recovery? One of the men in the book, Zhou, after recounting his horrific experiences which included maligning and renouncing his own father, asks the question: "How do you think a society where that type of behavior was condoned, no, not condoned, mandated, can heal itself? Do you think it ever can?" The seeds were planted, the harm done. Can there be any stopping the harvest it brings?

One of our memory pieces for the summer is Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream." Dwelling on his beautiful, poetic lines day after day don't take away the stringent truth that is starkly evident with each sentence. A nation reaping the woes of sorrow and atrocity they had been sowing for far too many years.

And then there is me. Being a parent. Who can be a parent and not either feel the burden of all their mistakes and failures on a regular basis, or else a false sense of pride that having done much of the sowing as per the manual, they are sure to reap the child that turns out Just Right. This is me, worrying that as the Sowing and Reaping principle goes with children, I am surely failing in creating the right conditions.

And China, oh China. My life is lived in you, given over to you. And what do you do when you sow and sow and wonder when the reaping happens? The principle of it starts to play on my heart strings, to play with my mind. Perhaps you sowed all wrong. In vain. Something is wrong with your sowing. It's all sticks and stones. It's all for the burning. Maybe there won't ever be any good fruit to show for it all.

Sowing and Reaping is scientific. It's matter of fact. It's get what you deserve. And this for much of life, is the way it works. Jesus himself preaches that.

But there are miracles. Jesus, the miracle worker showed us that. And in this world of Sowing and Reaping there is the wonder and unexpected gift of something we don't deserve. Time and time again we get it. We get the kindness of God. We get his smile on us. We get his patience toward us. We get his work on our behalf when we have stopped working, or when we do it all wrong.

The lettuce bounty is evidence that you do reap what you sow. But people are evidence of the fact that God is at work in souls in ways that go beyond the fixed laws of nature... just as he bent those laws in his miracle working ways so many years ago, to still raging seas, to change water to wine, to heal blind and lame men, to bring a girl back to life and a man out of the tomb.

I cling to the fact that there is more to my tasks of sowing than getting the conditions right. God is there, with his miracle of daily, amazing, not-according-to-my-rules, grace.

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