“Sow in the morn Thy seed,
At eve hold not Thy hand;
To doubt and fear give Thou no heed;
Broadcast it o’er the land…”
- John Montgomery
So as promised, here is a continuation of Monday’s discussion with my girlfriends at the college (scroll down to see the Tuesday's post) and some of the ways this conversation about “feelings” has sparked a deep dialogue within my own heart.
So there we were talking about redeeming feelings that at one time in our lives or another had defined themselves as negative: fear, worry, depression…and reclaiming them for God…the ONLY Cause and Creator in our lives, and the subject of discomfort came up. What about those feelings of discomfort, hurt and pain. Are those redeemable?
Hmm…as I sat there thinking about my own experiences with these feelings, I could not help but have those questions land smack in the middle of the environment of my spiritual study from that morning. I had been pondering, again…as it happens to be a long-time favorite of mine…Jesus’ parable of the man, the householder, who sows good seed in his field and up springs not only the intended wheat, but also tares…weeds.
I was in an agrarian state of mind. My thought was full of farming metaphors and analogies. Everything was translating into fields, pastures, seed, rakes, hoes, shovels, weeds….and so this question about feelings of discomfort was plopped right into the middle of that thinking.
And what came so naturally to thought…right as we were talking…was the question, “How comfortable must it be for the earth, the ground that comprises the garden, to have a shovel poked into it’s nice quiet, winter fallow soil?” It is probably pretty unsettling, quite flip-floppying to have a hoe come along and lift up the topsoil and dig down deep. I bet it’s comfortable to just lie there, undisturbed and quiet in the warm Spring sunshine. I know how much I like it when I can lie completely still under my quilts and not move the slightest…drifting in and out of slumber and dreaming. I don’t like it when someone rips those nice warm quilts, worn and soft from years of snuggling, right off my dreamy self and I have to get up and get to work.
But without that letting go of our comforts…that turning over of the soil…the garden will not take new seed, it will continue to lie fallow, the seed will be washed away by the first Spring rain, and the water will just become run-off, not able to penetrate the hard compacted earth. The earth, which has all the potential to become a garden…will remain a dry, weed infested (because that is all that can survive in fallow soil) plot. But with the hoeing, turning, plowing…they earth can accept the seed, it can hold the water and then the flowers, fruits and vegetables can grow... providing beauty and sustenance for the community.
I became so excited about sharing this metaphor with my friends that it all just spilled in a rush.. How many times had my life been turned upside down just before I had learned new lessons, taken exciting new steps, or found unexpected beauty and grace in my life or in the kindness of others. How often had the precursor to deep spiritual insights felt like pain, fear, uncertainty, a profound and utter shaking up of my comfort. Had these feelings really been the hoeing of my heart readying it for new seed, greater harvest gifts that could...and would... feed a waiting world.
Had I merely interpreted them as pain, sorrow, fear…when really they were the first lispings of God’s unimaginable promise.
All of a sudden my life shifted into greater focus. Almost as if I suddenly could see that the prophecy from John was being delivered directly to me:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament,
but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful,
but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow,
because her hour is come:
but as soon as she is delivered of the child,
she remembereth no more the anguish,
for joy that a man is born into the world.”
For me this suddenly made sense. If I were in labor with a child, the onset of that labor would mean something so wonderful and sweet. I could love and embrace those feelings of discomfort, with joy.
I realized that I could do this with the feelings of loneliness, fear, sorrow, doubt…that had been the onset of my own labor in birthing (or unselfing) a better sense of “self”…one that recognizes God as its only Cause and Creator…the only I AM that ever will be. I could just as easily define those “feelings” as excitement, promise, the anticipation of great growth.
I remember when I was little (and I was little…4’6” as a freshman in high school) I was so happy when my shoes became too tight and were uncomfortable. This meant that I was growing. I didn’t want to be a “little person”… I wanted to be tall enough to dance with a ballet company. And 4’6” dancers didn't present the optimum visual aesthetic for Balanchine ballerinas in the 1960s. That discomfort made me happy. I wanted to outgrow those old shoes.
Today I want to outgrow old garments of behavior and thinking that no longer fits. I want the discomfort of no longer being self-satisfied with that old view of myself…and others. I long for the great Farmer to dig in his hoe and break through any hard, fallow thinking I may have become satisfied or comfortable with…and prepare my heart for His seed.
Bring it on!
So…these were the ideas we shared, as well as some others I have been cherishing this week.
As my grandmother once said, “You don’t long for the Comforter…when you are comfortable”. It’s true...when the temperature in my house is comfortable…I’m not as inclined to go searching for my comforter…and when my life is comfortable…I’m not as hungry for The Comforter.
So…I think I am going to take those feelings of being unsettled, worried, uncertain…and reclaim them for God. I will allow my spiritually longing self to redefine them. These are now feelings of being shaken from a fallow rut…thank you God, of being hungry for the real sustenance of knowing His ever-present care rather than confidence in my own ability to “survive”…thank you God, of a deep desire to feel the peace that comes from surrender rather than control…thank you God.
And thanks to my friends for a great conversation on Monday morning.
“A grateful heart a garden is
Where there is always room
For every perfect God-like grace
To come to perfect bloom…”
- Ethel Wasgatt Dennis
Kate (still missing Jeff's editing)