My daughter Meagan, her fiance at the time: Jared (now her husband), Lori and I are out for a gosh-it’s-great-to-be-family-and ”Hey let’s go out for a Sunday Morning brunch”-together time.
An exhausted, worn, sad eyed woman appearing to be 78 years old comes to our table to take our order. She does, she leaves.
Meagan vocalizes what I’m thinking, “I feel so sorry for her… she’s old and she has to work here!?” My version adds a little more personal color, “That’s me at her age… a financial failure working on a bait barge, or in a shabby donut shop, vacuuming cars at an all night car wash in Hurricane Utah, or sitting on an intersection corner with a sign “Will Give Spiritual Direction 4 Food”… I’m so doomed”
Jared shifts in his seat and speaks up, “Ahh… I have a different take on her. She’s where she’s at because of decisions she’s made. I feel bad for her, but I don’t feel sorry for her… she’s reaped what she’s sowed. She didn’t live/plan well.”
Meagan and Jared do a little back and forth tit-for-tat clarifying what they each meant and didn’t mean regarding the woman’s plight. Their conversation is background noise to the torment un-tethered in my soul…
“You reap what you sow!” Egad… that’s how my future son-in-law feels?
What will he say about me in 25 years? I was kinda, sorta hoping that he would be my security net… put me up, feed me… cover my rear for 75 years of irresponsible impulsive recklessness guided as a free spirit living in the moment. All of these thoughts fermenting with a demonic choir in the background, “You reap what you sow, you reap what you sow.”
I pick up the bill and put it on my maxed out credit card.
All that day and the next I cannot mute the chorus, shake the anxiety nor find any solace from God. It’s as if every foul dark spirit of condemnation, shame, un-belief, failure and diminishment west of Hurricane has been summoned to bring a tambourine, juice harp and drum and join the band. “You reap what you sow!”
You’ve had those days haven’t you? Something within surfaces and is then seized upon, exploited and colors your every moment. You can’t shake it…. you’re warring/praying to no apparent avail. This was that day for me. It was horrible. Every song on the radio sang it, a plane carrying a banner over the beach stated it, it was posted on the sides of buses, on bill boards, bumper stickers… it was on the back of cereal boxes, heck even Oprah confirmed it saying it, “YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW!”
By days end I have no future, no hope… no faith (it would seem). I’ve sowed poorly financially and I’ll reap hell on this earth. I’m the bug you watch swirling around in the toilet helplessly caught in the flow of life’s cold realities… until he disappears.
I thank God Lori is so very much my helpmate in times such as these. She knows me, my story… she knows God and is so often his mercy, grace and tenderness to me. She offers her life to me though her listening, her strong courageous words, being there, and calling me out and up to be the man I truly am. That evening she offered all to me… she loved me well in every way… and after the loving, tout de suite God shows up!
The timing was a little odd, actually intrusive, like having a Jehovah’s Witness or a salesman knock on the door as you’ve just settled into a great book on an engulfing couch… but it is God and I answer the door.
Speaking to the suffocating weight of “You reap what you sow”, in powerful, defiant, words He says ,
From somewhere I began to argue that it’s an unflinching universal moral/life principle that HE (God) set up… that it’s true, it’s for the sake of order… it contributes to a good work ethic… it is just and promotes all that’s good and right… it cannot relent, there are no exemptions… I have no hope!!
To which he responds repeating himself for affect in a forceful passionate voice bringing me both clarity and joy…,
“Craig… NO! I love you, care for you, want to father you with grace, mercy, kindness… I will provide…”
And then day breaks and it’s all very clear for me…The principle of reaping what you sow by itself apart from any and every other reality of life is an impersonal law (like gravity). Being an impersonal principle/law doesn’t mean that it’s not true, but if taken as the highest, sine qua, the central governing truth of all creation and life in an exclusionary way. i.e. excluding God, it’s an inescapable sentence upon a person’s life. A petri dish for condemnation, shame and the paralysis of self-loathing.
God begins to sooth my heart and bring clarity and a new round of deeper dependence upon Him confirming that “Reaping what you sow” alone leaves no room for healing, no grace, no wiggle room, and zero hint of an opportunity for redemption or God’s mercy and intervention. There’s no sense of a father’s heart and compassion… for his extravagant provision. It doesn’t take into account that, for some of us our financial failures aren't so much a volitional act of defiance, lack of self-control/discipline, or materialism as it is an indicator of, symptom of deep woundedness, fatherlessness, brokenness. All very really issues that explain the failure and sins that mark our lives.
Did the prodigal reap what he sowed without mercy and redemption? Did the laborer who worked for merely an hour reap what he sowed (Matthew 20)?
It was the ongoing comfort of God as my father towards my own financial failures, my poor sowing, failure, brokenness and woundedness. I fell into a deep sleep with a big smile on my face.
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