Green beans and good deeds

Did you know that I can hear what plants are saying?

This is one reason why I hate weeding (besides the fact that it is hard work): it feels cruel and unfair. I hate the sight of all those babies gasping and shriveling in the sun. When I prune I have to steel myself against the protest. Once when Ryan chopped off a big wild grapevine, the sight of that gaping, dripping stump was dreadful to me, like someone bleeding.

The other day I was out in my garden picking green beans. As I pulled the long straight pods, I was sure (quite sure) I heard the plants sighing with relief.

green beans 2013

Left alone, the beans would turn fat and woody, aging idly, sapping strength, corking the usefulness and life span of the plant. Removed, they cleared the way for fresh energy to surge into the blossoms and new beans coming on. The plant found it was still young. Productivity endured.

They were delighted to give; I was delighted to receive.

I thought to myself—this is how I should think of good deeds.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love… not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:10-13)

Sometimes I get exhausted with my works, as though I have to produce enough of them to stretch around to the needs of all. Instead, I should be producing them because that is what I do—fueled by internal design, not external pressure. I am a bean plant. I make beans. And when someone comes along and picks them to enjoy, I can release them with a sigh of relief.

Whew. Thanks for taking that. I needed to cook a good meal for someone.

Ahh. Lovely. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to babysit. I’ve been growing that one quite a while.

Mmmmm. It feels good to stop in and visit you. I hope you are feeling better soon…

Thank you for letting me throw you a party! Now I can start cooking up the next one.

If you’re feeling useless and stuffed up, clear out some of the overripe projects, the things you’ve been meaning to do for others for a long time—or you’ll soon find you have stopped concocting the fresh.

And a little nontraditional advice, if I may–

Don’t get too bogged down examining your motives: you usually have several. If you can get them about 80% pure, just go with it, trusting to Jesus to iron out the rest. “Am I just doing it to make myself look good?” is not the end of the road you may think. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. (I Timothy 2:10 NLT. Context here.)

For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

*****

What do you think?

All the work is through

Confession: After several years of profound deliberation, I have come to believe that the best approach to life is, after all, play.

When I was a mother of two, one a high energy two-year-old with incessant questions, the other a baby requiring nighttime feedings, endless diaper changes, and infinite patience, I came across a song that baffled me.

Based on Psalm 20:7, it sang

Some trust in horses
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.
Some trust in chariots
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God…

His love never fails, His name will always prevail…

Some trust in the work they do
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God
‘Cause by His grace all the work is through
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.

Huh? I thought. My eyes were bleary from interrupted nights. My body was stretched and exhausted. My sink was full of dishes. There were toys all over the floor. There was supper to prepare, and three phone calls to make, and a neighbor to invite over for supper—never forgetting the big day of laundry coming up tomorrow. If all the work is through, what in the henry do they think I am filling up my days with??

I didn’t know the answer until several years later.

Play.

I want to talk about this carefully, because I know some of you are in a bleary-eyed stage. Some of you are breaking your backs and your hearts on jobs too big for you, praying your way through every day, collapsing into bed at night with water leaking out of your eyes. I’ve been there.

I’m not trying to make light of what is deathly serious. But play has never been for the faint of heart. We’ve all seen kids so absorbed in play they forgot food and family, lost all sense of time and place. We’ve seen them afterwards, so weary they’re nodding and drooping on their feet. We’ve seen the complicated mess that play entails, the three pages of plans necessary to pull off its intricate production strategies, the dramatic mayhem when it goes awry. Every healthy child knows how to play—and knows good and well it’s NOT EASY.

The more we think of our work as play, the better able we are to offer it to Jesus—to toss it up to Him with a smile and a prayer, to throw our hearts into it and then let it go. When it’s work (hard work) (never ending work) (work somebody ought to be helping us with) (and why did He saddle us with it anyway?), we are soon grinding our hearts out earning His favor, feeling all adult and sidelined and melodramatic, presenting our product to Him with bent shoulders and downcast faces. Or else being so deeply serious and intentional about everything (about this Important Work To Which We Are Called) that we forget the other half of our birthright: creativity, silliness, laughter, and joy. It’s amazing how much nonsense you can sandwich between layers of laundry.

We were born to play for Him. The most severe criticism I ever offer to anyone is that she takes herself too seriously.

(I offer it to myself very often.)

By His grace all the work is through means that no matter what we’re engaged in, He’s doing the heavy lifting. If He drops His end, we goin down, sister. He’s the one who changed the world with a shake of His mane and a roar: we call it the Resurrection. We are children: our best work mere child’s play to His, and mere child’s play often our best work to Him.

So.

If you’re stressing over the Big Work you’re supposed to do, feeling Singled Out and Called and Why Me?–laugh at yourself a little, and lay down the burden of singlehandedly changing the world. Only one Man can do that, and He said if you wanted to help Him you had to become like the littles, the kind that run around in diapers and prattle nonsense and smile at strangers. The work He wants from you is the kind you throw your heart into and then let go.

And if you’re caught in the middle of a desperately busy time–a weeping-at-night-panicky-with-exhaustion gauntlet of endless demands, your days stretching like elastic to hold the impossible task lists, your body spent…

Light a candle or brew some iced tea.

Pray for grace to stay on your feet.

Catch hold of that dishcloth or fussy baby, and open your heart to play.