At the Piggly Wiggly, in the aisle by the coffee, I spotted Fred, our neighbor down the road. We started talking farm talk, him with his cows and chickens, me with our horses.
“Worried about hay this year?” I ask.
“Nah,” he answered, scrunching his nose. “Cows will eat what your horses won’t.”
We laughed. He’s right. Horses are pickier eaters than cows and that means more money for better hay. While he’s paying $3.50 a bale for his herd, with price already set for next season, we’ve been quoted upwards of $8.00 a bale. We’re just a small hobby horse farm but it adds up with five horses. October through mid-May, when pastures lay dormant, our horses go through two bales of hay a day. I do the math and cringe.
But we have nothing to worry about really. Other farmers around here, whose livelihoods depend on good growing seasons, are hurting. Last year hit them hard with one of the worst droughts on record. Even so, yields were good. God provided.
And now? Now we have just the opposite. Fields have been flooded beyond their ability to absorb and skies keep raining with only a few days of sun and warmth between. Farmers are eager to get into those fields to turn and smooth and plant. But they can’t. It’s too wet. So farm equipment sits by the sides of barns and we wait.
We wait for dry. We long for dry. The first hay crop has been lost and we’re hoping for the second. Where rows of green greeted us last year at this time, only cut dead stems from last year’s harvest remain. Fields are full though. Multitudes of weeds, turning earth yellow and white instead of green, speckle pretty but will yield no food. That’s what happens when fields aren’t sown with good seed. They grow weeds. And weeds spread, choking out any other life that competes. So the farmer and we watch and wait for just enough days of dry to work the ground and turn yellow brown, praying for just enough growing season to supply our need.
How do you have faith in the flooded seasons of wet when it seems that nothing will grow in your soul but weeds? How do you have faith in the seasons of dry when the only moisture is tears and questions of why?
The grocery clerk told me she could never be a farmer. Too risky. I get that. It’s risky and scary sometimes to come up against our powerlessness—to have nature remind us that we’re not so much in a state of control as we are in a state of dependence. And dependence means vulnerability. Who wants to be vulnerable? I would have said no years ago. But I’m older now, a maybe a little bit wiser? Becoming wise is pricey because the price is nothing short of dying to self—progressive, repeated, consistent death to self. And who wants to die? Who wants to give up rights and power and position? Who wants to be humbled, really? Self screams and fights for its life and the only one who can kill it is me and you. But God helps us get to the place of decision, often with life situations.
When life places us in positions where we can’t deny our vulnerability—when we have to depend on someone or something outside ourselves and our control—when we put our pride aside and realize how vulnerable we really are—then we can finally realize that being vulnerable isn’t such a scary state—if we’re vulnerable with someone safe.
But I know myself. I know I’m not always the safe other because I’m not perfect. I screw up. I say things and do things that hurt others, nearly all the time unintentionally. But pain is pain, intended or not, and the bottom line is that there is not one single human soul so perfect that we can be perfectly safe with another human soul.
I’m far more selfish than I care to admit. Even giving to others can have mostly selfish motives that can hurt people in the end. God knows the heart and He knows mine better than I. Anyone infected with selfishness is flawed. I think that pretty much covers all of humanity. And selfishness is self-centeredness. And self-centeredness damages. And damaged souls yearn for restoration and release from the power of anything and anyone to do further damage.
We need to be released from ourselves—from our self-made prisons and torture chambers.
Thankfully, there is such a God who came for us—who came to free us from ourselves—who knows our vulnerability and fragility—who knows our weeded ground too wet or dry to grow good things. God gives us what we need to be free—to be free to live and grow and give life to others. We need Him who holds the key to unlock prison doors of Self.
Jesus set the captives free—all of us—at Calvary. The stone to the tomb rolled away and our prison doors to Self swung open wide. We can leave. We can walk through. We can go free. Our price of release was paid by Christ.
So why do I stay in my cramped cell? Why do any of us stay? Because there is one thing and one thing only we can’t take with us if we want to walk out and away and into new and true life.
Not true self. False self.
The self is only true and free when it has been found entirely in God—when it gives up all rights and claims and demands—when it just plain gives up and gives in to God and His ways. When we lose our life to God, the more we find our true life—our true self. The more we let go and cooperate with God, the more we live and thrive and give good to others. The more we hold on to Self, the more we wither and die and spread weeds that take over our own soul ground and infest the soul ground of others.
So, I have a dilemma. Shall I hold on to Self? Shall I hold on as much as I can to control and safety and keep trying to live in denial that I’m really not as vulnerable as I really am?
Or, shall I let go? Shall I choose to let Self die, bit-by-bit till it’s good and dead so that I can really live free in Christ, by His power—not mine?
What’s the cost to let go? Everything. And nothing. It costs us everything and nothing to let go and walk out the prison door. It costs us everything we hold dearest—our pride, our power, our control, our will to protect and feed everything with even the slightest tincture of Self. The cost of letting go is steep and the pain is excruciating. God knows.
This is why God allows souls to suffer. God created us with only one right—the right to choose Him or reject Him. And He never usurps the right He has given us. For the soul who chooses God and His way? That soul will suffer. And for the soul who rejects God and His way? That soul will suffer.
Herein lies a truth we humans try to deny daily—suffering is a part of life. Let it sink in like overdue rains on parched ground or overdue sun on spring fields drowned.
Suffering is a part of life. There’s no escaping it. But there are two kinds of suffering. Legitimate suffering leads to greater good. Illegitimate suffering leads to greater pain.
Since God is good, He calls us to embrace legitimate suffering because of the sanctifying effect it produces in our soul. God knows and sees the greater good beyond the suffering. He sees beyond the grave! He has always seen beyond the grave. The grave is just a stopping point along the way to resurrection. And the grave is a stopping point we all must make—one way or another. We all get to decide which kind of grave we want but we must all visit the grave.
Getting to the grave where resurrection follows requires giving up everything. Getting beyond? Well, that requires nothing. The work has already been done. The pain has already been suffered. The Savior has already been resurrected and we with Him for those who are in Him.
He said so when right before He breathed His last and gave up His spirit.
“It is finished.”
And so it is.
Will I be finished trying to be more than I really am and let God be who He really is—in me?
Surrender false self and find true self. Let go. Be vulnerable. The field will be readied by our perfect God, regardless of its weeded state now. He will turn it and plant it and nurture it along. All we need do is let Him tend our soul soil. And, in time, we WILL grow good things. As the seed of the Son of God is sown and takes over the weeds . . .
We will grow good things . . .
For ourselves . . .
For the world . . .
All for the glory of God.