Learn to Labor, and to Wait
I miss our old house. I never thought I’d say that, but I really do. When the kids went back home with their mother, within a year, my wife and I decided that it just didn’t make sense for the two of us to occupy such a large house and property, and that it really didn’t make sense for me to be driving an hour and twenty minutes twice a day for work. We made the decision to sell our beloved and beautiful country estate, not expecting any bites in such a poor market, and surprisingly we sold it within 3 weeks of listing it. That was in 2011. We have since taken up residence in a nice little townhouse on the Westside of Indianapolis, and have slowly started to settle into our temporary place.
We do like our new home – especially the wood-burning fireplace and all the natural light – but it’s not the same as the quiet country home. I think I miss that the most – the quiet. It’s never quiet here, and while I LOVE being back in the city and around so many random people, extrovert that I am, I do miss the quiet sunsets from our screened in porch, with my wife’s hand in one of my hands, and a glass of bourbon in the other. Naturally, of course, perfection was achieved on the nights the above happened, AND our three beloved Godchildren sat beside us, giggling, fighting, and leaning on our chairs. Those were the most beloved of all times. I have SO many memories – so many things that, like the Theotokos, I have kept and “pondered in my heart.” Our time with the kids was so fulfilling, life-giving, and to me (perhaps not to my bride, who is much smarter and wiser than I) our time was life-changing in ways I did not expect.
I have always struggled with being a self-centered person. I’m certain that so many of my friends, brothers, sisters, co-workers, etc. could attest to this personality flaw that plagues me. That being said and known, because of this, while I was always excited for the kids to move in, once they did, I was befuddled at the feelings of frustration that often arose within me. “I miss MY space! I want MY way! This is MY house! I get what I want!” I’m sure many of you know the rants that arise from these feelings. However, be that as it may, I was also caught off guard by what happened to me – I learned to truly love, to truly give, and to truly sacrifice and let go of what I wanted. I fell so in love with my Godchildren that when they were no longer living with my wife and I, I wasn’t sure how to go on any longer. My world had been turned upside down and I was left reeling at the loss of those who had helped to bring out some of the best parts of me. Not a day has gone by since they left that I haven’t longed for them to be living with us again, and yet, not a day has passed that I haven’t prayed for them and for their mother to continue growing in love and grace and self-sufficiency, and rejoiced to see that happening.
There was more lost the day we sold that property than just a house and some land – a dream died that day. In all the time I’ve had to process everything, I’ve faced the fact that we put so many dreams into that place, many of which were not realized and had to be let go. However, many of them WERE in fact realized and can be rejoiced over, and there will always be the memories for all of us of our time together there in that quiet country space. I’m happy to report that much of what we’ve prayed for has happened. While perhaps things aren’t what my wife and I wish they were, and perhaps we still miss the kids living with us and the opportunity to take care of them, after several weekends spent with all of them – the most recent being a long weekend with our Godson Elijah, I’m seeing some of what we tried to instill in them and teach them coming back around and enter into their thinking and actions. Elijah has said a number of things that remind me that our time wasn’t wasted or lost on he and his sisters. He is a highly intelligent and observant young man, and at times says things that just blow me away, and that I desperately need to hear.
I have always hoped that all the work I do with youth and young adults, and especially the time I was blessed to have with 3 of my beloved Godchildren would bear fruit, with no guarantee that it would. I’m starting to see some fruit borne, and I cannot express in words how fulfilling that is. Perhaps I’m not where I wanted to be when I hit 35, and I’ve not travelled nearly as far as I wanted to, nor have I accomplished all that I dreamed of when I was 18 and full of life and love and ambition. However, I’ve experienced more than I could have hoped for and I am starting to see the rewards of so many years of planting and watering.
Life doesn’t always move quickly, and some things take time. I have a bit of a green thumb and one my favorite things is working in the dirt, growing flowers and vegetables, and taking the time to nurture them into a good harvest. Fr. David Rucker, one of my dearest friends and fellow ministers is fond of teaching about the “Law of Harvests.” He says,”You reap what you sow, you reap MORE than you sow, AND, you reap LATER than you sow.” Another dear friend named Stan – a former Marine, youth pastor, and current pipe fitter – once said,
“Luke, you never know the seeds you plant and when they’ll bear fruit. I can remember like it was yesterday, running into one of the most difficult students I ever had as a youth pastor, at a funeral several years after he was in my care as a youth group kid, and he said to me, ‘Mr. F, after all this time, I’ve remembered everything you taught us, and more than anything else, it has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life. Thank you.’ I was blown away. So you never know if the seeds you plant will bear fruit, and you might never see the fruit, but, it doesn’t matter. Your job is to plant and cultivate, even if someone else harvests the fruit. Remember that.”
While the past couple of years have been difficult, and I miss my country home filled with my beloved Godchildren, I don’t regret our decision to move there, nor do I regret that they are home again. My prayer for my work with youth as well as my prayer for my role as a Godfather reflects the sentiments expressed in the poem below – that I would truly learn to labor…and to wait. Fruit can only be borne in time, and waiting upon God and time are truly some of the most difficult things in the world, but perhaps also, the most fulfilling if one can bear it. The poem below is one of my favorite. Written by the ever memorable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it sums up rather perfectly what I’m trying to say here, as well as the creedo by which I try to live, and encourage others to achieve. We must all plant the unique seeds we’ve been given, and then, like with any crop, we can only hope and pray that everything grows alright. We all must learn to labor, and to wait.
Glory to God for all things!
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us further than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Amen, amen, amen!