Maintenance and the Soul

For the past many, many weeks an army of construction workers rotates around our neighborhood repairing the curbs. A section is cut out, dug out, framed and then poured. Some sidewalks are repaired but some are not. Eventually, the street gets a new, deep black layer of asphalt.

On dozens of walks we discuss whether the work even needs to be done. I mean, I’ve about lost a wheel on the pothole near the kids school and the roads over there look like they need the work a bit more urgently. It’s all quite a mystery and the neighborhood keeps scratching its head.

This last week the condo in Miami collapsed on top of itself. One floor on another floor on another floor. Maintenance was needed but the problems didn’t seem as urgent as we now know they were. So many souls lost. Much is yet unknown but maintenance was desperately needed.

And maintenance is a total drag. Its expensive and it feels like it’s not really needed urgently so it gets put off. Like painting our house or figuring out why one slab of the driveway is sinking. We know that the problem is growing, will require some work someday, and it will be expensive.

Walked by this house once and itched to trim, paint, and repair it!

It doesn’t seem worth it until the problem is way beyond minor.

And so it is with my soul too. Things are working so why dig into that tendency to make a joke instead of respond differently, engaging the other person more lovingly? I’ve read the Bible through a few times so I probably remember what it says well enough to put it aside for awhile, right?

But our world and our souls are constantly pulled in the direction of chaos, disorder, and decay. If the house doesn’t get painted, the wood rots. If the source of the water leak isn’t found, the damage extends. If the crack isn’t investigated we don’t know how deep it goes or how quickly it is growing. If I don’t read my Bible, I forget.

Then crisis hits and we scratch our heads trying to figure out what went wrong. I then face the reality that I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t maintain.

I didn’t want to put in the daily, seemingly mundane toil of repairing what wasn’t quite totally broken. It didn’t seem worth the effort to shore up what was weak or protect what was vulnerable to the very active forces in the world.

Honestly, anything that holds together or makes sense, an atom kept in stable balance or even an atom that races toward another to stabilize itself, shows me an aspect of God’s character by revealing that order still exists. There is a force, God, that keeps things together, that heals, that puts together our souls and keeps them together.

He is the One that does that for our souls. Maintenance for the human heart involves surrendering ourselves, mind and body, to His skilled hand. It’s easy to think we can and need to maintain ourselves, but it seems more that my work is to cede the work to God Himself and comply with His Way.

The surrendered life, the crucified life, the cruciform life.

The abiding life.

That is the life that is kept in perfect peace, solid against the dark forces of the world that would tear us apart.

Gardening Gems

Every so often I’m in the car around noon on the day the gardening talk show is on the radio. Somehow I just never want to turn the dial eventhough I don’t garden.

It might be his soothing voice saying who knows what about a topic of which I know little. Or, maybe this will be the year I’ll need to know these things because this will be the year I become a planter of things. 

But a couple times over the past month, I’ve stayed tuned because what he’s talking about resonates on a deeper level than maintaining my yard. 

Once it was soil. Yes. Dirt. He was talking about dirt. It caught me because he said something like 75% of the chance that a plant grows is determined before the plant is put into the dirt. He was talking about the soil. If the soil was prepared well, the plant would grow well.

That explains a lot of why my flower bed look like they do. I just dig holes, put stuff in and pray. It hasn’t worked great. 

Then, today they were talking about pests and diseases in plants. They complained about people who see pests and disease and just want some spray to take care of it. So silly their tone suggests.

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No, I did not grow this. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Hmmm. That’s kind of what I do. Just get rid of the pest and we’re good, right?

No! They talked about looking at the whole situation and taking care of what was causing the issue in the first place or it would come back.

I realized my gardening is very surface level. I’m in it for fast results, not really the long term cultivation. I’ve not learned to cultivate the land and truly care for it. 

The same is often true of my spiritual life. I want fast methods to lead to quick results.

Instead the Bible talks often about gardens, cultivation, tending, and shepherding…all activities that are wholistic and slow but when embraced in our soul, yield the lives we really want. 

Lives that grow and produce beautiful things that can sustain others too.