Have you ever said ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be a part of something greater than yourself? Perhaps you said yes to a marriage proposal, or yes to a business proposal, or yes to a marathon whose finish line is multiple generations into the future. What happens when you say yes but don’t see immediate results? What happens when you don’t experience reciprocated gratification or get to touch the manifestation of your yes? When that happens to me, I feel frustrated and foolish. I question the invitation. I wonder if I made it up. I wonder if I am suffering from delusions of grandeur – if my ego is trying to play God.
In the dormancy of my yes, I question God’s presence, attention, and intention. My discomfort in the waiting reveals that I am uncomfortable with cultivation. Cultivation is the development that commands growth over an extended period of time. But our microwave, fast food, have-it-your-way culture has shaped me to be at odds with slow, sustainable growth over an extended measure of time. And when we prefer fast-and-easy over cultivation’s demand for commitment, persistence, and endurance, we are destined to disregard the very things that will help fortify our yes. We fail to appreciate the mire, the mud, and the mundane that coexists with our yes.
The mire is those situations of difficulty or distress from which I immediately want to extricate myself. I have no desire to marinade in situational valleys or pause to appreciate obstacles in my path. I want all my days to be sunny days. But just as rainy days are necessary for grass seed to become a gorgeous lawn, I need rainy days in my life. I not only need plenty of rainy moments, I also need to recognize and appreciate how they nourish me.
Did you know that though grass needs nitrogen, it is unable to absorb it from the air? Rain forces nitrogen to the ground where microorganisms convert it down in the soil. During thunderstorms, lightning instantly creates nitrogen oxide, which grass absorbs immediately without the help of microorganisms. Oftentimes, life’s rainy days and thunderstorms aid and expedite our growth too. We need both the sun and storms. Keeping this in mind, we can embrace the mire of unforeseen challenges. We can feel discomfort, misery, and grief while knowing that growth is happening.
Have you ever watched The Wiz (1978)? Dorothy and the Scarecrow find a golden-bright cobblestone path known as the yellow brick road that highlights the way to the land of Oz where they are to find the mysterious, all-knowing Wiz. Dorothy and her tag-along friends don’t know exactly where they are going or how to get there, but when they locate the path set before them, all they have to do is ‘ease on down the road.’ Oh, how I wish my path forward was that easy.
The journey that obedience unfolds is way off the beaten path. Faith can call us to walk a road that only God can see – one that is not so obvious, nor is it laden with gold. Oftentimes, our Creator is creating and cultivating something new for the next generation. So, sometimes we have to get muddy. We have to off-road it and chart a new course. We have to till the soil, plant seeds – get our hands dirty. But just think of the lotus; this most beautiful actually roots itself and grows in the mud. We can embrace our mud moments, knowing that growth is happening.
And then there are those times when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. There seems to be no measurable growth. It feels like my yes and I have died on the vine. These moments are marked as mundane and are characterized by the ‘un’ — unvaried, uneventful, uninteresting, and unexciting. In the mundane, I am exhausted by nothing happening. But then I consider the Chinese bamboo tree. In its first year, the Chinese bamboo tree shows no visible signs of active growth. In year two, there are no visible signs of growth. In its third year, still nothing. And in the fourth year, nada. At this point, we may wonder if the seed was rotten. We may wonder if we’ve wasted our time and effort.
Finally, in the fifth year, we begin to see the Chinese bamboo tree peeking through the soil. YAY! Then, the seed that we had almost given up on grows eighty feet in just six weeks. During the four years it appeared dormant, the tree was actually developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth. Had a strong underground foundation not taken the time to develop, the Chinese bamboo tree could not have sustained its life as it grew. While we may perceive time as lost or wasted, we and our yes are being fortified for sustainability. We can embrace our momentary mundane and know that growth is happening.
I am learning to be confident in the One who planted the garden in Eden, cultivated it, and walked in it (Genesis 2-3). So when I don’t see a stem budding above the soil, or have to take the muddy, less traveled road, or have to endure rainy days, I can confidently embrace the mire, the mud, and the mundane. I know that God is always present and cultivating. Growth is happening.