I live in Arizona, and we’re known for a few things: the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, a bunch of sub-par sports teams, and freakishly unfair weather in most of the state. What we are not known for are our lush gardens and fertile soil. That doesn’t mean nothing grows here, but I live in the desert, so my thumbs are about as far from green as you can get.
There are other types of growth, however, and I think they relate to just about anyone. In life, one must culture relationships, raise children, grow in their career (whatever that may be), and of course, mature themselves as time goes on. Real life is not static. You have to experience events, even ones you don’t initiate, and every experience changes you and/or prepares you for something in the future.
That’s something I’m wrestling with lately. I have been sick off and on for a few years now, and my illness reached a point about two years ago that I was unable to work any longer. I went through about sixteen months of physical therapy for a fractured spine and found myself learning to walk again right along with my baby boy, whom I was no longer able to lift.
In the past couple of years, I have been humbled in so many ways, that while I have maintained my church attendance with my family, I find myself questioning God’s purpose in my life. Or, if you prefer, my purpose in the world. I am a husband and father, but my soul yearns to do more with my life, and I haven’t yet figured out how to find that fulfillment.
It was in that state of mind that I found myself talking to a friend who had brought her kids over for a playdate on Friday. She is an artist like me who is also now a stay at home parent (in her case by choice), so I thought she might understand my feelings better than most.
When I told her I was having trust issues with God, she understood, since her dad had lost his fight with cancer during my hospitalization in 2015 for seizures and the aforementioned fractured spine. We talked for a while about our different struggles while openly acknowledging that living in a free country with our bills paid and full stomachs still made our worst days better than many others. Perspective, after all, is important.
It was on the issue of perspective that she brought up the subject of missionaries and from there, the martyrs for Christ over the years. We talked about different stories and the hardships they went through, and a recurring theme was: is God worth it? At the end, she mentioned the testimony of one man whose child had died while his family served in the mission field, and during that same year, he also interviewed hundreds of Christians about their faith and the struggles they went through. He asked them all, in so many words, if God was worth all of that, and apparently, the unanimous answer was yes. All of those people were killed by religious extremists by the end of his research.
She finished her thought with a quote from the man, and I’ll try to reproduce it here: “God alone knows the plan for our lives, but sometimes when it seems like you’re going through way too much crap, think of it as fertilizer for the seeds God will grow in your life soon enough.”
It reminded me of my own mother, who had married young and lost her first husband from cancer after he was wounded in Vietnam, and how she found herself struggling to raise three children alone. Her late husband’s family were cruel to her, and she had to work multiple jobs just to hover around the poverty level. If she hadn’t gone through all of that, though, she would never have met my father and neither I nor my three children would be here. My younger brother and sister, adopted, might have grown up in an orphanage overseas until they got kicked out at 18.
My mother’s life was hard and I know she and my older siblings still miss the man they lost, but God used that situation not only to bring me into being but also to touch the lives of two other children who needed my parents. It didn’t wipe away the pain for her, but instead created opportunities she would never have thought of.
Maybe that’s what’s around the corner for me. For now, being able to help my wife around the house and being available for the kids is a good thing. I am finally able to pick them all up most of the time, and I will always be thankful for that. My pain and feelings of uselessness still hang around, but I have hope that this will all pass, and soon enough I will see new seeds blossom in my life, taking me in a direction I would never have imagined. For those of you out there feeling stuck or lost in your life, I hope you take time and think of this period as an opportunity, as I will continue to try to do.