I am sure that it goes without saying that this year has been hard. For all of us. And without surprise, this year has brought me some of the richest lessons of my life. Though, if I take some time to look back, I can see that all the real-time, present life lessons have added richness to my life and I hope they don’t stop coming. 2020’s challenges have required endurance, flexibility, and strength of character in rapid and unrelenting succession. 2020 has even welcomed deep, soul altering challenges that require a kind of trust and healing I didn’t know I was capable of.
Blaming God or being angry at Him for the challenges of life, or anything really, has never been my response. I am not sure why, but it's not my go-to expression of frustration in my relationship with God. More familiar tensions in my relationship with God have been disappointment, fear, control, pride, and a whole list of other things I have to constantly repent for. But this year, this time, I struggled with blaming God and being very angry. The feeling surprised me, but more surprising was how natural it felt as a way to explain the frustration, pain, and deep confusion over what I was experiencing. The loud and raw narrative going through my head was, “But God, I work so hard to do everything well and right, why would you let this happen to me!”
As I write out that thought I can see the frustration, fear, and pride so clearly. But at the time it felt right. It felt valid. It felt justified. Even now, on the other side of a major attitude adjustment, it is still very tempting to give into that old familiar narrative. That attitude adjustment did not come quickly. In fact, I was not even willing to have my attitude adjusted for the better part of a month. The self pity was real and very comfortable. Eventually I was open to hearing from God about his perspective on all the frustrating and painful things. He had to repeat himself a few times, but finally I listened.
Mark 4:26-29 tells us, “And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.””
It was this scripture that caught me. It caught me in the overwhelm of my mind and heart and brought me a little peace. Eventually it brought me a lot of peace and now it has become one of those cornerstone truths that can be leaned into anytime the challenges come around. I identify easily with the man out scattering his seed. I even take pride in scattering the seed of my ministry and calling well and faithfully. Scattering my seed as the work of the Lord has always been a source of pride and has been done with great loyalty to all the things that I think the Lord wants from me and for me to do. What I have missed in too many life lessons is that the growth of the Kingdom of God happens while I sleep.
I am not talking about a literal sleep, though that is true as well. I am talking about a sleep that lets my soul rest, my efforts cease, and lets my will melt fully and totally into the will of God. Meaning, God moves while I sleep. He moves while I rest. He moves even when I am motionless, achieving nothing. He moves as I surrender, submit, and trust Him to do what only He can do. The reassurance that brough to me is hard to describe. Seeing that the success of all the things of God has never and will never hinge on my ability to powerfully, efficiently, or masterfully scatter seed is just what I needed to hear. Or rather, it is just what I needed to understand. The truth is that this lesson is not a new one. I think that I have been learning this in layers of depth for a very long time. But the collision of my real pain and God’s very real words made for a dramatic and powerful moment of clarity. I finally get it. And to prove I get it, I have to live it.
Maybe this is the more notable challenge for this year. Living in a way that shows the world that I believe and understand that I can’t make things change. God makes things change. That He is the one with the ultimate power. I get the honor working with him, the God of the universe, by obeying the things He asks of me. That's it. I obey only the things He asks of me. Refraining from the temptation to add to the directive and create a world in which I never sleep and think that all the things of God in the world need me to make them happen. The message of Mark chapter 4 is a refreshing one. I do my part. Just my part and God does His while I rest and surrender. It is God who grows things, changes things, rescues things. And it is for me to stay close to Him, listen to Him, obey Him, and rest.