Friday, September 13, 2013

The Spirit of Cooperation

“I planted, (another person) watered; but God gave the increase … We are God’s co-workers.” 1 Corinthians 3

We have stumps in our yard. Not a few; not a couple; but a bunch of stumps. Most of them (in the lawn) are low enough I’ve been able to mow over them, for I do keep my mower height up a few notches, and yet they are and have been regular toe stubbers for the year or so we have lived in our home.

We checked with people who remove stumps for a living, but the price per stump to remove them seemed outrageous, which is quite likely why the previous owners never got rid of them to begin with. In time they should disintegrate, but I am not sure I want to wait until then. I suspect they are more likely to petrify and become rocks, joining the zillion other stones that occupy our soil.

Having seen stump grinders at work, and having an idea of how they do their business of grinding, I could see no reason I couldn’t handle the task myself – necessity being the mother of invention and all. I went to the store and bought a decent (but inexpensive) plug-in electric chainsaw, and for the past week or so have just ground away at those stubborn little toe-jammers one by one until the yard is now mostly clear.

So far, I have only found one stump that has resisted my efforts, but it is up in a flower bed and out of the way, so it really isn’t a problem. It’s just an eyes-sore I want removed, but it will come down in time – of that I am sure.

I find my spiritual life is something like our yard. There are things that stump me and against which I stub my toes. Many things I leave to God to take care of, for those things really do rest in his hands.

Like the natural decay of wood, there are character defects that will wear away over time and disappear, and that is a good thing. I think it is part of God’s plan to help us learn where the stumps of life are so we can find ways around them – even in the dark.

But there are other things that are a problem for us in the “now” – like impatience, anxiety, or depression, which we can grind away at in the present moment. It isn’t easy. Good things never are, and yet we are told that all things come to good for those who love God and who are called according to God’s purpose, and I believe it.

There are things only God can do, but for the most part, God expects and requires our active participation. There’s an old joke: If you want to win the lottery, and pray for God to help you win (an approach I DO NOT advocate), you ought to at least meet God half way and buy a lottery ticket.

Sometimes we want God to change our lives one way or another, but we are unwilling to do our part to make it happen. We want friends, but we won’t join new groups. We want sobriety, but won’t stop our drinking or using. We want more business, but won’t advertise.

We pray for patience, but get angry when God sends trials our way – but how else will God help us build our “patient” muscles if we don’t face circumstances that will exercise them?  How will God change our world if we won’t help him change us?

Watch what you pray for; God often answers prayers in ways we don’t expect, and in ways we will not appreciate, but that is just how God operates.

Knowing that God is God and we are not, it is easy to simply expect God “do it all”, but the fact is that God put us here; we are instruments of his grace. To act as if it is otherwise would be to become derelict in our duty – and that’s no way to live.

If there are things that would improve your health and well-being (and that of your community), then ask God for the tools you need to plant, water, or grind away on life’s stumpers. It will make for a tree-mendous difference for everyone here in this, our valley.