December 14, 2017

The Sweat Of Our Brow

In retrospect, I probably should’ve brought the map. Footstep after footstep, one in front of the other, each one of them leading me and my pregnant wife farther astray on the hiking trail. But it was a nice summer day, overcast, not too hot, and the trails weren’t that steep. So we did our best to enjoy the natural beauty of the Ozark mountains (technically, the “foothills of the Ozarks”) and continue on our way.

The trail wound up and away from us, and eventually forked, and we came to a sign that told us how to find the Overlook, not the spot we’d been looking for, but one that would do. We continued on until the leafy curtains on either side of our trail parted to reveal a good-sized clearing, a little damp from the previous night’s rain but still welcoming to our weary selves. We made our way to a circle of benches surrounding an ashy fire-pit and sat down to rest, pray, and worship.

A few songs, prayers, and scripture readings later, Michelle and I were feeling refreshed, though unwilling to break the seal on our new little place of peace and let the real world back into our lives. We sat quietly, reveling in this quiet moment, when the rain began. Not the sudden, dam-breaking downpour you see in movies, but a gentle, steady rhythm, the kind that actually adds to peace instead of removing it.

And there, in our time of prayer, as the rain fell, Michelle began to speak about God’s seasons, and how he established cycles, and that’s the way he works. We’re currently in a cycle of difficulty, of instability, of financial inconsistency, but that God is faithful to bring the seasons in their time, and nothing lasts forever.

I’m meditating on this wonderful reminder of Michelle’s when a bead of sweat, leftover from the hike that brought us to this place, makes its way down the bridge of my nose, lets loose its grip, and plunges to the ground below. I watched it fall and strike the ground between my feet, and an even more wonderful seedling of a thought begins to take shape in my mind:

My contribution to the water that’s currently watering the earth is so small as to be insignificant.

It is God who brings the rain. In his grace and mercy, he is the one in charge.

it is up to me to do my very small part, but when it comes down to it, God is the one in charge. It is for him to decide when the rain will come. If I try to water the ground with my sweat, if I try to make things happen on my own, if I decide I know what’s best, I’m only headed down the road to exhaustion, dehydration, and death. I can work my fingers to the bone, but I will never produce enough sweat to water even a small garden, let alone the world.

It’s all up to him.

The rain let up, and Michelle and I got back up, clasped hands, and began to walk back down the trail, back to real life, walking on newly baptized ground, remembering who brought the rain.

Comments

  1. Thank you for a beautiful and truthful message. We are all too impressed with ourselves and too oblivious of His all-sufficiency. God loves me, but He is not impressed with me and He doesn’t “need” me. For some reason, we all have difficulty receiving His love. We insist that it be related to the droplets of sweat which we contribute to His watering of His earth.

  2. Damaris says:

    Beautiful, Adam. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Joe Hudson says:

    Thank you!
    Our family too is in a “cycle of difficulty, of instability, of financial inconsistency”. I resigned from my recent pastorate three weeks ago. We are not yet sure when and where the next step in the journey will take us. In this transition, my wife is acutely feeling the financial pressure and desiring for me to go out and get a job. Right now I believe God wants me to wait on His rain, in His timing.
    Again, thank you for your timely post.

    • Glad to have you here at IMONK, Joe H. I’m praying that GOD would show you, and all of us, how NOT constrained HE is by the US economy, or any other barrier to HIS goals and Kingdom. I’m praying that you and your family can find faith and perseverence during this tough time.

      Greg R

  4. Adam,

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  5. Lisa Dye says:

    So much truth here in this post, Adam, and beautifully articulated. Thank you.

  6. David Cornwell says:

    For the last couple of years, since retirement, I’ve lived in a house on a detached portion of my son-in-law’s dairy farm. Every single day brings a fresh realization of the importance and necessity of the cycles of life provided for in Creation. Sometimes there isn’t enough rain, last summer not enough heat for the corn at the proper time, yet at the end it seems the crops come through. And then the livestock. He brings the young heifers over to pasture on our part of the farm and here they stay until ready for the next phase of their lives.

    And farmers definitely understand “the sweat of the brow.”

    Being retired I’m very aware of where I am in God’s timing. I do love being retired, because now I can pursue those things that are creative, things I’ve had to set aside during other times, and enjoyment of my family. And beyond this my hope, along with that of all of us, is the New Creation and resurrection. But I’ll admit, that “last enemy” death does bring some fear.

    Thank you Adam for your piece.

  7. Jonathan Blake says:

    Thank you Adam for sharing such a wonderful moment with us. You’ve definitely given a good idea for me and my wife to do soon because we live right in the middle of the Ozark area in Missouri. I love hiking here and thank you again for showing the faithfulness of God as we are also in a time of hardship and financial stress.

    Grace and Peace