Green thumb?

So I was reading the other day (shocking, I know) and I happened across a passage in the Bible that caught my eye.  Combing through the later Psalms is kind of uplifting, yanno?  When I came to 126, I stopped.  What caught my eye was the last two verses:

5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

At first glance, it’s encouraging stuff.  It tells us that the pain will end, the trials will cease, and one of these days, we’ll be able to smile again.  That’s good to hear.  I think everyone can bring up a handful of examples of when we needed serious encouragement to get us through the tough times.

What stood out to me was a sort of implicit warning, however.  My mind, devious thing that it is, reworded the sentences a bit.  When you sow with tears, what are you planting?  When you reap sheaves with joy, what are you gathering?

Life can be excruciating at times.  Everyone has had at least one experience that “could have killed me”.  Betrayal.  Unfairness.  Your own folly and its consequences.  Can we agree that sometimes you’re the pigeon, and sometimes you’re the statue?

The question rising out of these two verses is: what are you planting in your distress?  When life has you down, when nothing goes right and getting out of bed seems like more effort than it’s worth, what harvest are you preparing?  When your heart is shattered and you can’t bear your own life, what crop are your tears watering?

No matter your preferred flavor of psycobabble, everyone agrees that pain is a process.  There’s anger, denial, bargaining, rage, moping, goth makeup– I digress.  Pain and grief take time to work their way out of the system, and the time frame involved varies for everyone and every situation.  But one thing that does not vary is the choice we have when we are in the middle of that ugly mess.

Bitterness is a natural response to the cruel actions of others.  But it is not beneficial for the long-run.  How many stories do we have about someone consumed with bitter anger whose life revolves around revenge?  That person always winds up far worse than anyone else.  When you are past the pain, wrapped in smiles and bright days, will you be reaping a harvest grown in poisoned soil?

Anger is also natural (and some would argue healthy).  When someone does you wrong, when you get kicked while you’re down, when you learn the hard way, anger takes root.  What happens when it grows up?

Say your situation is all (or mostly) your own doing.  You screwed up along the way, you just weren’t good enough to make the cut, or whatever.  What are you planting in your heart and life during this time?  Are you walling off parts of yourself that are “disgraced”?  Are you uprooting abilities or traits that contributed to the current problem?  Minimalism might be a popular decorating style, but I don’t think it works inside your heart.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “sacrifice of praise“.  Do you know what that means?  It can sometimes be kind of hard to understand the references used in older writing, especially when the practice the phrase came from isn’t used anymore.  A sacrifice is something you give up.  Today, we generally use “sacrifice” to mean giving up something really important, something that it’s going to be hard to live without, or something that you don’t have to spare.

When you’re in pain or wracked with grief, you probably won’t feel like singing.  I can almost guarantee that you won’t feel like singing happy songs or being nice to another person.  Most of us want to have space to nurse the wounds, and sometimes that means loud music with someone else pouring emotional lyrics into our heads.  We require attention and aid when we’re hurt, when we’re down and out.  We usually don’t have the strength to give up, give out praises.  Especially if we think that God had something to do with our current situation.

Can you think of a more appropriate time to “sacrifice” praise?  You don’t have it to spare.  You don’t have the strength to find the pitch, and the words get stuck, anyhow.  And how many times have you been told that you can’t sing, hmm?  Well, friend, the Bible says to praise with a song; it never said anything about being in tune.

What are the benefits of dredging up a few words of praise through the miasma of your misery?  Why bother?  Why put on a glad face and pretend that you’re not hurting?

Now when did I say that you should do anything like that?  Nothing in this little treatise indicates that you should deny how you feel or the reality of your situation.  What I am saying is that there’s a way to give your pain a point.

When you come out of this dark time (and you will, one fine day), you probably will want to forget as much of it as possible.  I don’t blame you one bit.  But you know that what goes around comes around.  What you plant in your pain and water with your anguish will grow.  It will continue to mature in your life.  If you really want that horrible memory to fade away, then don’t plant weeds that will strangle you ten or twenty years down the road.

This is not putting on a show or pretending to be all right.  Your pain is real.  It is also finite.  Don’t let it have more power in your life than it should.  Don’t let it destroy you.

You know, some folks recommend simple activities like gardening to those who are hurting as a way of taking the mind off the enormity of the issue for just a little while.  The only thing I’ve ever had luck growing was mold.  However you get through your tough times, don’t forget to take care of your inner garden.  And if you need some help, I can recommend Someone Who is very good at getting rid of weeds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: