Preparation – Some Prayers Take Time
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
A few months ago, my sons and I planted tulip bulbs in the backyard. It was bitter cold then. Not much sign of life or growth nor any inclination that new beginnings were on the horizon. Nevertheless, we dug down, 8 inches. Scraping past the hard, nearly frozen ground. We dropped in the bulbs, then we covered them again with earth.
And then we waited.
Author Anne Lamott talks about the practice of planting bulbs as a form of prayer. Prayers that take place in the dead of winter when the ground is cold and hard and wet and you can see your breath. Even as you plant the ugly suckers you wonder if they’ll ever bloom; and if they do, how could something as gorgeous as a tulip come from something as unlikely as shriveled bulbs and frozen ground.
This winter has been a hard one for us all, my family included. We’ve lost loved ones leaving us with a lot of tears and questions and sadness.
Not all of our dreams have come to pass. Other hopes seem much farther in the distance than we imagined; progress in life and ministry and the pursuits of justice have proved far more elusive than we can bear.
And sometimes when you get into that emotional place the best thing to do is to get outside, regardless of weather, and wrap your hands around things that are older than you. That’s how we came to plant bulbs in January.
In the days immediately following the planting, the boys would continue to return to the backyard garden to check on the planted bulbs. Finally, they asked me when the flowers would come up. “Not for a couple of months”, I’d tell them. I’d tell them that it’s too cold now, but now is the right time to plant them. But they won’t show their face until the cold goes away, the rains come, the time changes and the days get longer. “They probably won’t arrive until after Easter”.
Easter. That holiday that reminds us that life always overcomes death, seeds have to die for the flowers to arrive, and things buried will ultimately come back.
As we navigate the final days of Lent – the last days of fasting and restraint – let us also remember that night doesn’t last forever. The winter will eventually thaw. Injustice won’t have the last word. Viruses will, one day cease their infecting. The dawn will rise, weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Dear ones, the faithful seeds you have sown, in your neighborhood, community and church, will grow, surely as the seasons change. Your labors done in the darkness, in the cold, in the isolation, are known by God. As you do your faithful work even as the evidence surrounding you looks bleak; remember that the God of resurrection sees you, knows your faithfulness even in the winter seasons, and wants you to know that an Easter harvest is on the horizon.
My sons have forgotten about the bulbs for the moment. It has been months after all. But the seasons are changing and I’ve been checking on the bulbs more this week. Seeing how they are doing. Waiting for their blooms. Hoping that the prayers buried in cold black soil on a wet Saturday in January will find their way to the light and show their smile to remind us that some prayers take time.
Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Matthew Watson serves as the pastor for Christ City Church, a young, multiracial congregation located in the heart of Washington, D.C. Matthew is a long time member of CCDA and a part of Cohort 1. In addition to pastoring, he serves as a church planting coach with the V3Movement, focusing on church planting in urban contexts and guiding historic churches looking to return to their community-engagement roots. You can follow him @watsonopolis and @ChristCityDC