This summer, I’m playing with the book of Mark every week! Check out my original post about why I’m studying Mark, and Mark 1:Authority, Mark 2: Avocado Toast, and Mark 3: So You’ve Left Fundamentalism… And now onward to Mark 4!
God, I’m tired.
Are y’all tired?
It feels like there’s just too much to do these days.
Right after the election, I joined a neighborhood activism group, and we sat in a circle in a living room and made lists of products to boycott, senators to call, legislation to support. We had one big printed out list of “issues,” and everyone got to choose what “focus group” they wanted to be in.
I circled like half of them, then had to go back and cross off some of my circles because I couldn’t be in more than two groups. Every time I put an X over my circle I felt a clench of guilt in my stomach because am I saying that the environment isn’t important, am I saying immigration isn’t important, how dare I call myself queer when I’m not actively advocating for LGBTQ rights.
The world is burning, and all I have is a tablespoon of water, and I’m watching the flames, wracked with indecision about where the most effective place to toss my ineffective drop will be.
It is paralyzing.
Sometime in January, I sat with my therapist and whirled through a thousand thoughts – I’m volunteering at my church and working on my writing and protesting and tutoring refugee kids and running a prayer group and writing letters and registering voters and canvassing and oh my GOODNESS there is so much to DO that needs to be DONE!
My therapist laughed and nodded and sighed with me while I rattled off dozens of plans to heal the world.
Finally she stopped me.
“Maybe you should stop asking ‘what is good to do,'” she said. “Maybe you should start asking – what is mine to do.”
What is mine to do.
What is my small patch of earth to tend?
What is my tablespoon of water?
What are my seeds to scatter?
For the kingdom of God is like a sower that went out to sow…
Listen! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground,
where it did not have much soil,
and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched;
and since it had no root, it withered away.
Other seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew up and choked it,
and it yielded no grain.
Other seed fell into good soil
and brought forth grain,
thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.
A sower went out to sow.
And not everything that she did was successful.
Not all the seeds that she scattered grew. The seeds that grew didn’t all survive. The seeds that survived didn’t all produce food. All she did was go out, faithfully, to the field that she had, and planted.
The kingdom of God is as if someone would
scatter seed on the ground,
and would sleep and rise night and day,
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he does not know how.
The earth produces of itself…
It’s hard for me to accept my own small patch of earth.
I’m scared that I have so little to offer.
And I can let that fear paralyze me. I can panic and bury my one talent in the ground because if I invest it I might lose it, and the risk is not worth it, not for such a small amount of potential reward. I can mourn how small my patch of earth is, how small my sphere of influence is, how small my talents are, how inadequately prepared I am for the challenge. I can give up. And I can justify giving up, because I’ll tell myself that there’s so little difference between tending something this small and not tending anything.
Or maybe I’ll swing in the opposite direction, and so instead of being paralyzed, I’ll take my fear about how small my sphere is and exhaust myself trying to expand my patch of earth instead of tending it. I’ll try to reach more and more corners of the earth until I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes on the half of the things I’m trying to tend.
It is hard work to accept the smallness of our patch of earth and commit to tending it faithfully anyway.
It is hard work to admit that after we’ve planted, there’s not a lot we can do.
It’s especially hard to do both at once.
It is so hard to commit more deeply, but to commit with open hands, holding the results of our work loosely. It’s so difficult to throw ourselves into our work with everything that we have, but at the end of the day, to sleep well, like the sower in Matthew 4, who sleeps and rises in day and night – because the earth produces of itself.
But “holding on with open hands” is how we participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God. We move in more deeply to our gifts and communities and world and we commit to them fiercely. And at the same time, we hold the results of our efforts gently and with less fear. We commit to our work, and we release our control.
Is this your seed to sow, is this your lamp to light? Is this not just what is good to do, but also what is yours to do? Then do it, with everything you have! Go out into the field and sow. Light the lamp. Scatter the seeds. And then release your grip. You did what was yours to do, and you did it faithfully. Have the courage to work – and have the courage to release the results into the mystery of the kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God…
is like a mustard seed,
which, when sown upon the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
yet when it is sown
it grows up
and becomes the greatest of all shrubs,
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.
Does it matter if it isn’t big?
Friends, it’s not supposed to be big.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when it is sown…
What we have is so, so small.
But our God delights in multiplying small things.
My prayer is that you don’t lose hope or let discouragement overwhelm you when you look at the size of your patch of earth, or feel the weight of your incompetence, or feel too small to make ripples in the oceans of injustice you see around you.
My prayer is that you tend your patch of earth faithfully. My prayer is that you go out to sow, and then you allow yourself to sleep. My prayer is that you rest in the faithfulness of God who takes joy in your small gifts of fish and bread, and delights in multiplying them.