It was finally one of those days where I got home early enough from work to lace on my running shoes and inhabit the fresh evening air before the sky turned to dusk and the cold threatened to freeze my toes. I would much rather have been barefoot, but…patience. Summer will come soon enough, I told myself.
As the sun began to fade behind the neighbor’s fields, I picked my way over the crusty, white earth to the place where I had left my garden the previous fall.
The air had been warm enough today to melt the earth somewhat, and my running shoes squished noisily over the brown grass as I surveyed the “ruins” where my garden had been.
There wasn’t much optimistic about the sad-looking plot. It was still covered mostly in white, crusty snow, but where the snow wasn’t, ugly patches of dried, stiff grass or hardened earth lay, as if tauntingly saying, “look at how much work you are going to have to put into us. Prepare to have your back broken, your hands calloused and your brow moistened; not to mention the beautiful farmer’s tan that you will acquire this summer.”
I sigh. I know what I will need to do and how much work will have to be put into this sad-looking plot. I want to expand it this year too. Move it farther west and use the raised beds that my brother and I made this winter. I have a picture in my mind’s eye of a beautiful garden – probably a Pinterest fantasy more likely – where roses, and dahlias, and anenome, and tulips grow unhindered. The raised beds are painted and labled and perfect. Everything is organized and orderly and speaks of excellent taste and forethought. But I look at the sodden earth before me and the longing of that kind of garden becomes a mirage.
And it’s the same cycle all over again. You buy the seeds, you put in the work, you plant and transplant and water and plan and dig and water. And you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, but you try anyway because you have a hope, right?
Jim Elliot once said, “Don’t let your longing slay the appetite of your living.” I have many hopes and longings, chief of which is to use my life for a greater good than living for myself. But lesser longings and dreams would be to plant a garden (one that actually looks like it’s worth something), mentor girls, help people, build a house, start a coffee shop or a coffee truck or a flower truck, support myself while freelancing, own an off-the-grid farm, help people, hike the Appalachian trail, build a conservatory/solarium, write a book, help people, work in an orphanage, counsel girls, get married, adopt tons of little, abandoned kiddos, fiercely love said kiddos and on and on and on.
“Don’t let your longing slay the appetite of your living.” “Whatever you do, do it heartily to the Lord.” “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” Whirling around my head are these thoughts as I plant the tomato seeds with little brother and try to stay diligent about watering them. Last year’s seeds failed to even come up, and I am holding out hope that this batch will behave more favorably. And so I live. And I hope. And I plan. And I ask for grace to not get so hung up on the “longing” that it wastes my living.
The longings will always be there. And for everyone it is different. It could be different for the 30-something year old guy who wants to get married but has never found the right girl; will he waste his living by longing? Or what about the girl whose friends are all getting married and having kids and she’s only washing floors, cooking casseroles and playing in the dirt with her nephews? Or what about the widow who longs for home; longs to be rid of her weary, cancerous body and be with the Lord? Or what about the guy who longs to start his own business but it’s just not the right time? Or what about the couple who can’t have children? Or what about the girl whose dad is absent and she just wants with all her heart and soul for reconciliation but such reconciliation never seems to come?
And what about Fia, with her little dreams, her ugly garden and her expectant hope? I think the longings are good. It’s what she chooses to do about them that will count. And reader, if you’ve been given a seed, even a little one, water it well. If you’ve been given a talent, even a small one, grow it big. Don’t wait for a bigger talent to plop into your lap. You want to build a greenhouse next year? Start with your garden. You want to buy a farm someday? Thank God for your job and get at it. Work diligently, save and wait on God to fulfill those dreams if HE wants. Or watch Him laugh merrily at your dreams, and give you something else; something better, because God’s plans are always better. Always better than you could plan for yourself. But in the meantime, Fia, play with your sibligs and eat popcorn and watch movies and go on road trips with the windows down and country music playing. Because someday, you’ll look back on those times as some of the best of your life and you will miss them.
And be glad. Be glad God has given you a dream, a hope, a longing and a desire. He made you and put you in this world to do what no one else could do because they aren’t you.
And don’t worry. Let God take care of tomorrow. He holds the sparrows in His hand, does He not? Do you not think He knows your longings, Fia? The living starts now. There isn’t some magical day when you can finally start living. So live, and don’t let your longings rob you of your living.