Sunday, December 1, 2013

Weeds in the harvest

I wrote this summer about the drought, about thirsty land and thirsty hearts, about animals sold and lifestyles nearly lost, and about the famine for hearing the Word of the Lord.

Finally, it rained. Oh, did it rain. It rained through the summer, revived the grass, the green appeared, we were thankful. Then it flooded. The rivers overflowed, roads were washed out, houses were damaged, yet we were thankful. Grass grew when we thought it was too cold to grow. It headed out and those dark brown heads above the green tint were a beautiful sight. A barren land returned to the land of the living. 

I knew I needed to write about this blessing, but how? How could I put into words the sheer joy we felt, or the mixed emotions when the roofs leaked and people were hit with the cost of repairs - yet we still clapped over lakes appearing in places they’d never been? 

Fall came. Finally it cooled off to the point that the summer weeds began to die, and I noticed something. Much of the green, the beauty, had not been grass. Yes, there are still gramma heads waving out in the pasture, but between the patches, the weeds have died and left patches of bare ground, where the drought affected the turf beyond what one growing season could repair. There’s no question that life has returned, but there’s no less a question that damage was done.
Sundays are exciting days in my life. My church is growing. Young families are attending and they want to be part of the life of people who serve Jesus. They want to know Jesus and we are glad. We eat with them, and I study the Bible with their children. Nothing brings more joy to my day than when a 5th grade girl looks at me at the end of the story, and says, “But don’t stop! I need to know what happens!” It’s like rain! Things are growing, the harvest is coming.

But Jesus said that the harvest would not be all wheat. He warned us that weeds were growing up with those tares (Matt. 13:24-30). And nearly every day when I leave work, or I leave church, or I leave a community event, I am struck by the thorns of those weeds. A young Christian couple, married less than 3 years and already on the brink of divorce. A woman fleeing an abusive husband, trying to find a job. A young lady with no purpose beyond her live-in boyfriend who is a world away from her. What kind of past has led to this pain?

Driving home one night, I stopped to visit friends and was struck by the contrast. I’d grieved all afternoon, over sin and over situations caused simply by sin in the world. That day, I’d been so struck that I was able only to say, “That’s odd,” when a woman shared that she was glad her brother was “only drinking a lot” in response to her grandmother’s death, and when I realized that a high school girl had given herself and lost to yet another boy. 

At my friends’ home the burden was lifted as I returned to the world in which I was raised, as I saw again faith in the God I knew: yes, situations of grief cross our paths, but hope is bigger and trust in a sovereign God who lovingly commands averts much of the pain. I said “That’s odd,” again that night, but it was only in response to one child mowing the lawn after dark in November while another taught the dog to jump from freezer to washer, much to their mom’s consternation. In the world with no hope, few have the time or peace of mind to actually sit and enjoy such moments.

And I am struck again tonight. I read of the grief of lost dreams and it resonates. My life is not what I dreamed. Then I think of other news.  The chains of drugs leaving lives more trashed than the room a family abandoned. A daughter attempting suicide. A baby lost at birth.  And those around struggling to trust in a God they cannnot see and may not know. Where will they draw the strength?  Other friends come and I rejoice in the miracle of their baby, a baby loved, a baby with a future. What of my selfishness? My problems are so minute, my pain so finite in comparison. Both death and life overshadow them, for I live in the grassy patch, where God has watered the soil for many years. 

It is the difference of the wheat and the tares, of the grass and the weeds. In the world God created, in His perfect world, in the world He recreates as He draws His people near, in the world that returns to life when the floods come, His Word guides a life that allows emotional health. Yet, sin has touched our world, the drought for the Word has taken its toll on lives, and though the rains come, the patches of weeds are still there. They will not be healed by one rain, nor by one season. It is the work of a lifetime of watering the seeds of the Word.

And so we continue to pray. May I never, never forget to pray for the barren land, watered, seeded. Lord, pull the weeds and bring the harvest.