Dirty Fingernails and God

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How many of you wait and watch for spring all winter long like I do? For me, the longing for spring sets in the moment I see the first leaf change color in the fall. It’s a heart aching that grows ever deeper with each new leaf giving way to the lack of chlorophyll. With their life blood no longer being produced by exposure to the sun, they slowly close off their veins until finally separating themselves entirely from the tree and falling to the earth to decompose. When the last few stragglers make their way to the ground, the ominous pressing of winter seems that it’s everywhere, even though it has usually not yet arrived. You can feel it coming. Its foreboding whispers fill the wind and you can’t escape. And so the counting begins.

The first time table is the countdown to the dreaded end of Daylight Savings. In my opinion, it is the worst day of the year. We are plunged into a deep darkness. The earth itself takes on a funereal silence. In this absence of sound the heightened pitch of the wind-whispers sting the tips of your ears. Then the longest countdown begins. With singular focus I watch the date on the calendar marking the start of Daylight Savings. For me, this is the best day of the year. It’s a hope against the darkness, each day being one step closer to the light. With the addition of an extra hour of daylight, the new time table then becomes how many days are left until the First Day of Spring. Each passing calendar date bringing sunshine and green one step closer to being a part of daily life. I can feel the weight lifting.

Lily Tips

In Ohio, the start of Daylight Savings and the First Day of Spring are both more likely to be marked with snow versus an actual sign that the wait is almost over. But in my heart they are markers telling me to hold on, the end is almost here. The heavy whispers that curled my shoulders will soon become a sweet uplifting breeze. Soon I’ll walk a little taller with my face uplifted towards the sun.

I find a deeper satisfaction in “playing in the dirt” than what is implied by this tagline frequently used by gardeners. Yes it is fun and the rewards of a bountiful harvest are immense. But for me, the dirt under my fingernails reaches me on a spiritual level that few other things can. I feel closer and more in tune with God. My inner noise is silenced and I am there with Him in the very act of creation.

We live on a spec of the land. It’s a meager 7 acres. Yes I know 7 acres is nothing to disregard but of the billions of acres making up our world, this truly is a speck of dust, nothing in the grand scheme. My garden is an even smaller fleck but it belongs to us, at least in the sense of auditor records with the county. On occasion I have given way to an inner turmoil, a feeling that taking care of this speck is a waste of time. The argument in my mind always consists of something about how my time could be better spent reaching souls and helping others, doing something of eternal value. But a greater voice always seems to wash away my doubts and I feel a sense of God’s pleasure. I feel His joy in seeing His daughter love His creation so much and want to take care of it.

Gardening was one of man’s first God given tasks. Genesis 2:15 says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it”. As we continue through scripture Jeremiah 29:5 says “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce”. There is a certain reliance on God that comes from placing a seed in the ground and hoping for a harvest. There are things we can do to help it be successful. But the very act of a seed germinating and growing into anything in the first place is purely a miracle of God. And so we take what we have and place it in the ground and trust in God’s process. We start with surrender and then we work and tend, we hope and we wait. Crocus

Tending the earth does require a great amount of work. But I always find each step of this process bringing me closer to God, more aligned with Him and understanding Him better. In the spring we break open the soil to cultivate it, making it ready to receive what we will surrender. We place our hopes in the cultivated soil and cover them up. At that moment, from all appearances, the seed is no longer even there. And yet at this point we increase our efforts. We keep the ground watered. We pull weeds to protect our fragile little dreams as they start to sprout. And as they grow we fertilize them to encourage that growth so it will be even more productive. We employ fences and scarecrows to chase away predators who would steal what we’ve worked for and take it as their own. Indeed it is all very hard work. But for me it is also an act of worship and service.

We see this dance played out in Scripture with the Hebrew word Abad. There are verses where Abad clearly refers to the act of manual labor. Exodus 34:21 says “Six days you shall work (abad). Proverbs 28:19 says “He that tilleth (abad) his land shall have plenty of bread:” However we also see it used in the act of worshiping God through service. Exodus 8:1 says “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they may serve (abad) me.” And then in Joshua 24:15 we read “But as for me and my household, we will serve (abad) the Lord.

Our actions of taking what we think is ours, recognizing it as God’s through surrender, worshiping God though working towards our desired outcome, while we wait for what only God can do, this is the dance of work and worship. Again nature mimics life. I love our little spec and my tiny garden. In the grand scheme of land of earth it truly is a fleck, a nothing. But to me, the time that it takes to tend it is the open door to the grandest scheme of all. God, my Father, the Maker of the Universe who holds my surrendered hopes and dreams. In His presence and with dirt beneath my fingernails, I can feel Him smiling at me.  And that is truly the deepest reason I always long for spring.

Pear Blossoms


1 Comment

  1. Joe Sutphin

    @joesutphin

    “Our actions of taking what we think is ours, recognizing it as God’s through surrender, worshiping God though working towards our desired outcome, while we wait for what only God can do, this is the dance of work and worship.”

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