March 7, 2014

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Work and shape your spiritual muscles this Lent

Patti LambThis winter was cold and rough. One particular snowstorm in January brought winds that claimed a huge limb from a craggy, old cedar tree in our backyard. The grass underneath it had withered. Mounds of snow took so long to melt that it appeared we’d lose a row of bushes, too. The poor little boxwoods had been beaten down and misshapen from the weight of the snow.
My plan was to dig up the boxwoods and the overcome grass, and then plant new bushes and grass seed come spring.
The temperatures remained frigid, and I didn’t think about anything outside until we had an unseasonably warm day a few weeks ago. I figured I’d take the warm weather opportunity to dig up the boxwoods. I got the shovel and headed out back, where my husband was chopping up the fallen tree limb.
When I made it to the backyard, I was in awe. The bushes I had written off looked to be greening up. Even the spot under the large cedar limb looked like it was coming back.
“Am I seeing things?” I asked my husband, motioning to the bushes and grass. “Or do these look like they’re going to make it after all?” My husband indicated that I had erred in giving up too soon.
“I guess God’s timeline doesn’t always mesh with ours,” he said.
I suppose I should know by now that spring follows winter. I’ve lived in Indiana long enough to realize that, even after the longest winters, spring does eventually surface. I see it happen year after year, yet I had lost sight of it this time.
God makes things new again. He is a Redeemer and a source of restoration.
I know a very devout Christian woman who has long struggled with an illness and all of its imposing limitations. After a troubling recent hospitalization, she said she wasn’t sure how much more of this she could take.
“God should have picked someone stronger than me to endure this trial,” she said.
I remembered the words of a quote on a friend’s bulletin board: “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
Particularly in times of trial, our faith is cultivated. And when God feels the furthest away, I think that’s when he is actually closer than ever before. Our times of agony are a tiny glimpse of what Jesus endured on the Cross. And those moments of suffering teach us humility and compassion for others. As ironic as it sounds, strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
When we are called to suffering, as we all will be at some point during our earthly journey, we can find comfort in the words of Sirach in Scripture: “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. … For in fire, gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation. … Trust in God, and he will help you” (Sir 2:1-6).
Being a follower of Christ is not an easy road. No Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal without discipline, practice and occasional strain. No Christian is prepared for eternity without proper training, weathering some storms and teaching others to believe in the hope of Christ.
Our little boxwoods have completely sprung back to life, by the way. I found a small garden plaque to place beside them with a quote by Neal Maxwell. It reads, “Faith in God includes faith in his timing.”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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