|Our Shadows are cast by the light of the sun.|
~The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
It was the summer after my freshman year of college. I returned home and began working for Greenbush Lawn & Landscape. I was a lawn boy. I walked for 9-12 hours per day all summer long behind the 48" cutting deck of a Scag three blade mower. There were days under the hot summer sun that seemed painfully endless.
In addition to residential lawns, we also were contracted to maintain several industrial properties. The one scorched into my memory was an abandoned plant in the countryside between Middletown and Monroe. This particular job had a massive field that the owner wanted mowed every week. It was flat, it was wide open, and it was eternal. This was the place that I first began to consider my own thoughts and to evaluate the path of my life.
The steps I took as those blades trimmed the turf seemed so utterly pointless. Each step was the same as the last... each turn of the mower seemed to take me no closer to the completed cut. Even after the 10 hour spin and rotation of the four foot mower deck would only result in a week long pause before I again would resume the skin-scorching, bug swatting, boot-sweating task. Even the breath I inhaled seemed pointless.
My days were spent cutting grass in an abandoned factory. I had a pointless job in a pointless place... and within a few days there would not even be evidence of my work.
And so... I spent those hours considering my life. I debated my beliefs, wrestled with my upbringing, and played out the scenario of my future life in countless possibilities. I envisioned myself as a father, a businessman, a laborer, a preacher, a singer, a factory worker... and realized I really didn't have a clue to the future. I just knew that somehow there was value in continuing to place one foot in front of the other and cutting that field.
Somehow over that summer I learned to find value in a job well done. I began to lay beautiful lines in that field and make art from my labor. My skin bore evidence of my persistence as it tanned and shined. I became one with the machine and even began to enjoy the feel of each turn and the smell of the blades of grass spinning in the wind. I found purpose in the everyday.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to his place where he arose.
What began as a meaningless summer ended with me on one knee as I proposed forever to my high-school sweet-heart. The money I had earned was a downpayment on forever as I handed it over to the jeweler at Rogers in the Towne Mall and received the ring that I would eventually place on the graceful finger of my wife. I learned that there was great value in the everyday steps of this thing we call living. The sun rises and it falls... and we have this time between the rising and falling to attach significance to the shadow that it casts over our form.
12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
Again... I find myself walking the long rows of that endless field. This time however, I do not walk alone. My right hand is held by my wife and I still am graced by the promise bound on her finger. Our children walk along with us. We turn these seemingly endless rows together as we cut this field that is the time before our departure. There is so much to be done. And our days are filled with the necessary business of taking out the blades of grass. We seem to spin and turn and labor as the heat beats down. The daylight is limited and the job must be complete.
How can it ever be done? No matter how much I cut... it will grow back. No matter how much I talk, the words just aren't enough. No matter how much I tell of our passion, vision, and work... we can not even begin to scratch the surface. How can I close the deal? How can I convince others how deeply I feel this burden... how much I am desperate for their support? How I am learning to fall on the trust of my God while I beat my mind to do all that I can to be obedient?
And yet... I am beginning to see the beauty in the rows behind me as I make the turns. I am beginning to feel one with the machine as my life is evident as the beautiful pattern of God. I yearn to have His heart. I want the steps of my life to bear evidence of the tracks of His love.
That summer forever changed my life. And now... I realize that my labors are downpayment on the promise of our new future. We invest our lives together to hold young abandoned lives dear to our hearts. We take this promise of adoption that we have found so true in our own lives: the adoption of our daughter Aleksandra, the adoption of our daughter Sterling, and even the miracle of God adopting us as His own sons and daughters... and we let this miracle overflow from our own lives as we become agents of adoption for orphans and loving families.
How can we not share this wealth that has been poured into our lives?
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.