Today I am linking up with my Story Sisters in our “Girls We Once Were” link up. Today’s the last day to submit (I know I’m such a procrastinator), but I couldn’t figure out what to write. Then I remembered a post I read by Glennon Doyle Melton called, “Extremely Long, Completely Scattered and Containing Curse Words” and I so got her response to God in her tough season of life. It echos mine in this tough season of life. I thought about last week how I was praying and God showed me I was waking around with little roots of bitterness in my pocket and I needed to give them over to him. So, this post has been forming in my heart for days. Y’all should know I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, so please be kind my green thumb friends, I’m totally sure I’ve got the whole process wrong. Today, I offer you my own rendition of, “By God , There Will Be Dancing” a story that ends Glennon’s rant in “Extremely Long” with hope.
I hope this story, my story “Gardening With God” blesses you.
Gardening With God
I’m lying on my living room floor. Not ugly crying. Not cussing while I pray. Not getting my steep on. Just lying there. Still. Empty. Done. Bitter. I’m lying on the floor, drifting between sleep and angry prayers when I hear movement on my back porch. Curiously, I hear a man humming and the swish of soil as He moves it around to make room for new blooms.
I drag myself off the floor, sighing at the dust bunnies I’ve been too depressed to chase away and peek out my back door to find God crouching down planting a garden in my back yard. I guess all those agricultural references in the Bible were for a reason—God is a gardener!
I watch him for a moment. He’s wearing one of those ridiculously big hats; the ones old Southern women wear when they plant tomatoes—even and especially if they hate tomatoes. One day—the Guy gardening on my porch willing— I’ll wear a big hat and ugly clothes and grow things in the dirt too.
If this were another time I’d walk out there and say something snarky like, “What’s with the big hat, Yahweh? You’ve got some kind of God complex or something?” But today I’m too angry for snark. No, we’re passed our snarky phase, God and me. We passed snarky straight through to tentative “Are you there God?” prayers to rooted to my living room floor bitter and still silences. I blame God for not showing up when it all hit the fan. Where was he when our car broke down after a bad oil change? And where was he when my son was being bullied at school? What about our housing situation becoming stressful? Doesn’t he want us to move into the city to live incarnationally with the under-resourced in Roxbury? What about our church plant and its slow growth? Where was Old Green Thumb then? Probably working in someone else’s garden.
I’m so angry. I’m so over him and “his ways”. I’m sick and tired of not growing wearing in doing good and waiting on the time to reap a good harvest, that I decide to give him a piece of my mind. Even though, we’re past cuss word-riddled prayers, I’ve got a few choice words for Him. Words like: done. Over. Atheism. Or even better, Scientology. Yes, it’s aliens and mind control for me! After all, I like a good fiction now and then.
Wait! Is there some Kool-Aid drinking cult I can join? I do look pretty awesome in a peasant skirt. Yes, it’s the cult life for me. Polygamy and charismatic cuckoos here I come.
So, I step out on the porch to tell God I’m going to become Moon Sister Osheta Wife Number 43, when he stops humming and looks up. I’m captivated by his eyes. They are the brightest hue I’ve ever seen. They’re not just one color, they’re many—crystal blue, glittering gold, and comforting brown. So many colors I’ve never seen before and so, so bright. I can’t take it, so I look away. After a beat he starts humming again.
Now I’m all types of irritated. It’s not like we just didn’t have a moment just now! I mean, Hello! Before he showed Elijah his glory he said something to him, like “Rise up, I’m going to show you my glory”. After the year I just had I want to hear something from him—even if it’s in a still small voice. But no—he just locks me in a gaze with his awesome God eyes and then goes back to humming. And gardening.
I can hear him take in a deep breath and exhale while he works. It’s a curious sound. I mean, God shouldn’t have asthma, but his breathing is so loud, so pronounced, so intentional. I wonder what’s up. But I can’t handle those perfect eyes again and I’m so tired of his evasive Rabbi answer a question with a question techniques, so I dare not look back to see what all the breathing’s about.
As if he can read my mind and well…he can…he stops his humming, takes in another deep breath and says, “I know you’re mad at me.”
Like the reprieve of the sun on a cold winter’s day, my soul warms to the idea of hoping once again. Was it his words or his breath? I can’t tell, I just know I want him to keep talking.
“Well… I mean you can read minds, right?” I sullenly reply.
God chuckles! And its like Brian Mcknight, John Legend, Idina Menzel, and Adele made a sound love child. It’s more beautiful than both Gungor brothers and more comforting than Julie Andrews’, “Favorite Things”. That sound coming from that Glorious Gardener is stunning. I remember why the cult life is not for me. I’m a Kingdom girl. I’m just so royally pissed at My King.
“Come sit by me while I work.” He invites.
I gesture around. “Well, God…um…I’d love to and all…but you know I’m not a nature-nature girl. How about I sit over here by my trash can, far away from all that…dirt.”
God smiles and—boom! Did I mention his smile? I mean, move over Morgan Freeman.
“Come and sit by me while I work.” He offers once again. This time I can tell he won’t press; he’ll let me sit by the trashcan if I want. It’s doesn’t escape me that the Almighty is faithfully working downwind from all my junk.
“Ok, but don’t you get any of that dirt on me. You know You’re still in trouble, right?”
God lifts up his big dirty hands, “Promise and yes, I know you’re not happy with me.”
I gingerly sit down next to God, while he goes back to humming. Why doesn’t he start explaining himself, I wonder. Why doesn’t he explain everything? The car, our housing, our church plant, the bullying? G-OD, you’ve got some splainin to do!
While he’s working in my garden, pulling up weeds and planting new baby bulbs, I see what he’s breathing on. Every so often, he’ll pull a seedling up from the ground, dust off the roots to reveal it’s stringy, floppy, wilted state. Then, he’ll breathe in and exhale over the seedling. When his breath touches the seedling, the roots straighten up, fill out, and extend down with a new vitality.
I’m mesmerized by in and out, death and life, broken and wholeness, of his divine gardening technique.
“Hmmm?” he replies half humming/half speaking.
“Why do you pull those baby plants up and breathe on them?”
“Because you asked me to.”
Perplexed, I hazard a glance at those brilliant eyes only to find he’s settled them on the brown. Like mine, they’re rich and almond-shaped and wonderfully, humanly brown.
“You see, honey, we’ve been at this for a long time. You give something over to me and ask me to take care of it. So I plant it here in my garden. When you were a little girl it was your worth. When you were a teen it was your sexuality. When you were a new mama it was your babies. When you got married it was your marriage, and now that you’re planting a church with your husband it’s your church plant.”
“Yeah, but I ask you to take care of these things. So that means you take care of it! You do your happy God thing and speak peace and shalom over it. Not let everything fall apart, not disappoint me, or hide your plans for me. How are you taking care of those things when it’s all coming apart now? I mean hello God, for a Savior with all that swagger you sure are stingy with the blessings. A simple “let there be…” from you and we could have our car repaired, a new place to live in the city, a thriving church plant, and happy kids. So, tell me how breathing a little breath on some dirty plants is taking care of me?”
“I’m glad we’re back to snark.” He quips.
“Don’t try to be funny now. I’m really mad at you! Tell me how breathing onto some roots is ‘taking care of me’”.
“Every once in a while these roots turn into themselves, they start to rely on themselves for life, they try to hold on to yesterday’s nutrients to sustain them for today, they forget where they get life. They grow bitter and cold. So I come along and breathe on them. I remind them of my love and life and protection. I breathe on these roots Osheta, because you asked me to. I breathe onto these roots because you need to remember. I am the Good Gardener and I will always take care of you.”
“You know, you’re tricky God. Plants and roots and breathing. You’re so, so tricky. I can’t figure you out.”
“You’re not supposed to—I’m God” he jokes.
“Ha-ha” I tease and impulsively fling soil towards him.
He flings it back, “I just want to love you and for you to love me back. One day you’ll get it all, but for now, will you just let me breathe on you? Will you let me remind you of who you are? Will you let go of bitterness and trust the truth of my love for you?”
“Ok…but before you do, remember this: I was on my way to becoming Wife Number 43 in a super cute organic cotton peasant skirt. I was going to put my summer camp counselor skills to good use by mixing up sweet and yummy watermelon Kool-Aid—don’t forget that. “
God smirks and shakes his head, causing that fantastically ugly hat to flop a bit, “No, I won’t. Are you ready?”
I nod and God cups my face with those dirty, perfect hands and breathes over me, “You are mine”.
Then, I remember. I remember being “the girl who danced” on the porch, under the stars late into the night. I remember how comforting it was to know that Big God is holding tiny me. I remember the girl who didn’t worry because she knew her Abba’s got this. I remember the girl who imagined, “Osheta” tattooed into Jesus’ palm. I remember the girl I once was. Trusting, joyful, settled, sure. The girl who danced through abuse and abandonment, the girl who danced away from fear and to the cadence of love, the girl with dirty heels and blistered toes. I remember I am the girl who dances.
I open my eyes to lock my gaze with the Divine —they’re every and all colors again—but this time I’m more intrigued than terrified.
“You remember, don’t you?” he whispers.
“Should I stop gardening, dear? Should I stop breathing onto your bitter roots?” he asks.
“No…no…I think you should stay. And while you’re doing that, I’m going to kick off my ballet flats and dance in the soil over there. Is that ok?”
“Yes, honey go and dance. You do know you’re going to get dirty, right?”
I kick off my flats and press my toes in the cold soil and say, “Yeah, but you’re worth getting dirty for.”
And so I dance, while God gardens. I forget about the dust bunnies inside and the stressors all around. I forget it all and remember the girl I once was. The girl I am still. The girl who dances in the presence of the Good Gardener.
Dancing to the Sound of His Shalom,