What a day was Monday!. A fun morning playing golf with my buddies. A satisfying afternoon mowing the lawn. But things took a turn for the worse when in the evening I watched five and a half inches of rain fall in about one hour. I also watched about a truckload of wood chips float past my window, down to the ditch, into my neighbor’s yard and out into the street three houses down from ours
As I wrote a month or two ago, these wood chips had been meticulously placed by me under our trees as mulch: “It took two days of sweating labor to deliver about fifty or more barrows-full to place the mulch where it was needed. Shovel, trudge, dump, rake, repeat.” Now I watched helplessly as all that work washed down the drain (or out into the street).
Tuesday was bright and sunny, as was Wednesday. Each of those days, I grabbed my rake and shovel and an empty garbage can, and scooped up the chips and schlepped them back where they belonged. While the FitBit recorded ever-higher heart rates, and I drank pints of water to replenish my dehydrating body, there was time to think, “I’m really grateful.”
First, although the winds were fierce and the rain torrential on Monday, our home was undamaged. I’ve seen floods on the TV news, the appalling scenes of homes washed away. The helplessness is always evident in the faces of the people and my heart aches for them. A couple of days of raking is nothing compared to the tasks that lie before those folks.
Second reason for gratitude is the attribute of God we call long-suffering. When God steps in and saves his people, as when He took the Israelites out of Egypt; or when He save a wretch like me, He has done a once-for-all time thing. I’m saved, end of story. But afterwards begins a process we call sanctification, perfecting me inch by inch until that glorious future day when my Savior, Jesus returns. Until that day, God is loving and patient to put me back in place when I sin. When the waves of temptation come and wash over my resolve to live a life pleasing to God, God steps in, rakes me back into place, and forgives me once more.
The Bible tells how patient God was with Israel, how they tested Him with their stubborn disobedience. I often wonder how they could do that given their miraculous delivery from slavery. But an honest assessment of my life shows I’m no different from that desert-wandering people. I trip and stumble, groan and mumble, yet my Father forgives and keeps on working in me to make me more and more Christlike. My favorite Psalm reads:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. Psalms 103:8-10 (CSB)
So when temptations come like a flood, dislodging me from my place, God the keeper of the garden picks me up and puts me back where I belong. Thanks be to God!