As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
With unsure steps, I make my way down the stairs and across the boardwalk on the edge of the ravine, my cane making a hollow tapping sound against wooden boards. Haltingly, I walk across the boardwalk to a lookout that provides a sweeping view across the early spring forest.
It’s a big deal for me to have made it here to the lookout, the first time in over three years I’ve had the mobility to walk down the steps to this picturesque spot. Three years fighting tooth and nail, clawing my way through painful treatments and hours upon hours of physical therapy to regain lost mobility. Years of pain and tears intermingled with powerful lessons such as choosing to live with joy in the face of hardship. Years of experiencing God’s love even on my most difficult days.
I approach the lookout and eagerly sweep my gaze across the forest. And see nothing but the apparent death that is April in my part of Canada. Lean trees, muted and pallid, stand tall in the cool wind, a backdrop for the weathered sticks and tattered leaves that lingered through the battering of a harsh Canadian winter. A few puddles of muddy water stagnate where the snow melted just a few weeks ago. Aside from the shrill cawing of a bird far above, there is no apparent sign of spring.
And yet, I must not let myself be deceived by my own perception of this forest. Before a month passes, life will spring forth in an explosion of color.
Although I cannot yet see the fruition, beneath the surface seeds are already germinating, preparing to poke their heads out of the soil when the time is right, bursting forth into new plants. Within weeks, buds and leaves will appear on the same trees that now look so dim. Rain will fall, the puddles becoming homes for small frogs. By the middle of June, flowers will abound.
All of this new life will not have sprung from nothing, appearing magically one day like a wish upon a star. Instead there have been weeks of silent, secret work going on beneath the ground and through the very veins of the trees and in the form of tiny eggs that will one day leap forth into glorious frogs. The “death” I see from my lookout is only a foolish misperception; the joy of spring is already whispering, awakening this forest from its winter fallow.
How similar this is to the trust we have in Christ that the Holy Spirit is working in and through us even when we cannot yet see any results. When we try again and again, be it in a relationship or some other attempt to carry out Christ’s call of love on our lives, and yet do not see fruits.
If our faith is based on only what our eyes can see, how shallow it would be. When we yield to the Holy Spirit’s planting of seeds in and through our lives, there may be a period of germination that looks like nothingness before the seeds spring forth into tiny plants that one day grow into a jubilant harvest.
It’s not unlike the many hours I spent over the years in physical therapy, exercising when it seemed fruitless, before one day late last summer I finally was able to take my first steps. Steps that grew and grew over the winter—until the day when I parked my wheelchair near the boardwalk, got off, and on shaky steps made it down the stairs and over to the lookout.
When we surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives and submit ourselves to Jesus’ calling of Luke 10:27 to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves, we can rest in the faith that Christ is planting seeds that he will one day turn into plants.
It’s something I try to remind myself in my uphill journey as a woman living with physical disabilities who is parenting two older youth with cognitive and emotional disabilities from the foster care system. My husband and I clearly felt God’s call to not only adopt them, but to love them without reserve, accepting them as our children.
And yet, many times a day, when I look around at the challenges, I see the bleakness of a forest not yet awoken to spring. I feel like the apostle Peter, who, upon walking on the water with Jesus, became afraid when he saw the wind and began to sink (Matt. 14). But Christ reminds me of what happened next: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”’ (v. 31). I used to see Jesus’ words as a painful, even rude chastisement of Peter in struggle. Now I see his response instead as the loving, gentle words of a father who was always there to hold Peter up.
As Christians, we are called to trust that the Holy Spirit is planting seeds in the varied situations of our lives. In fact, not just planting these precious seeds but beginning their sacred germination. Our steps forward may be shaky and unsure, but as we hold onto faith, on the day God speaks them forth out of the ground, these seeds will blossom into something beautiful and spectacular.
We can cling with joy to the comforting words of Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
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Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight