I decided not to garden this year, but Quinn begged to plant something, so with a ridiculous carelessness, we scattered seeds in the garden last week in such a way to make even the most basic gardener turn up his nose at me. Now I have no idea what little seedlings are popping out of the ground, and it kind of feels like Christmas to see them poking out of the dirt without any idea what they will be. This year will probably be my best garden year, just to spite me for all those years I actually tried. And I learned to use the weed eater today, and I giggled the whole time because it jiggles your arm like those machines in infomercials that claim to tone your muscles without you having to actually exercise. I only got half of the back yard weed-eaten (weed-eated? weed-ate?) because I kept getting distracted by cleaning out the wood pile and then cleaning out the stick pile (yeas, there is a difference between a wood pile and a stick pile) and then ripping out most of one of the beds because it annoyed me when I tried to weed eat around it. Working in the yard felt strangely exhilarating, as I was finally catching up after years of neglecting my yard. Though I'm exhausted, I'm also invigorated by the joy of the work.
And I keep thinking about jogging on the cruise ship. Yes, I know that sentence was not like the others, but I promise to bring it full circle. The first day we were on the cruise ship was a day at sea. I was looking forward to laying around in the sunshine and just being warm and lazy like a fat cat, but 40 mph winds and 9 foot swells made laying in a deck chair more like a scene out of a Seinfeld episode. So I gave up and decided to try out the jogging track, and man was I hooked. When I rounded the corner of the track and the wind was at my back, it was all I could do to make my feet touch the ground. I think it may have taken me three strides to cover the 50 or so feet on one side. Then I turned the corner and tried not to get launched overboard as the wind blew me sideways. I must admit I did hit the railing once when I wasn't paying attention, but I could probably do that without wind. Finally coming around the other side, I hit the wind head on and it was like running on a treadmill because I never felt like I got anywhere. The distance that I covered in three strides on the other side of the ship felt about two miles long. But there is no better feeling in the world than reaching the end of that side, turning the corner again and feeling the wind at your back after such a long and painful struggle. I may have laughed out loud once or twice when I rounded that curve. I am sure people thought I was nuts.
So when I stepped into the lilac scented air this evening, or when I participated the Team Emmett 5K Saturday morning, or any number of times lately that I've been intoxicated by how light I feel, I am reminded of my short jogs on the ship, and I feel a strange urge to laugh out loud. Because right now, in this moment, I am feeling the wind at my back. After coming out of a hard winter where I felt like I was doing everything I could think of just to stay on the treadmill, I am finally finding space to breathe. For a couple years now I've been coming back to James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.and then verse 12:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.Mostly those verses just made me dislike James. I would read them and think to myself, "I'm sure that perseverance is nice in theory, but really, isn't it just a little overrated?" There is no way to explain, and yet I am sure everyone who has tried to persevere through something painful will immediately remember the bone-crushing weariness of just getting through another day with as little collateral damage as possible. And James tries to tell me there's something worth it at the other end? Here I am barely able to lift my head and he expects me to skip through this struggle as if I'm doing nothing more than going to smell the lilacs?
Yes. Why yes, he actually does. Well, not skip and smell lilacs, exactly, but he does expect us to lift our heads and, maybe through gritted teeth, remind ourselves that the lilacs are out there. But the beauty is that Jesus holds us in faith, even when we can't hold ourselves. My pastor spoke a couple weeks ago about the failure of Peter, and he reminded me that God is active to build our faith even in our failures, and that we are kept in faith, despite our failures, by Christ whose Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
So I've been reading Psalm 139 to myself quite a bit recently, and I absolutely love verse 5:
You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.I can't seem to get enough of that verse. To be hemmed in, to be held, to be kept. I felt the pressure of God's hand when Emmett was sick, I feel it when the waves of grief crash over me, and I feel it when I open the door and get swallowed up by the delicious spring air. But even when I didn't feel it, his hand was still there. And I'm thinking that next time I hit that wall (as I'm sure many more will come), that maybe, just maybe, it will be a teensy bit easier to remember that truth.