Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Ministry of Manure (Part 1)

“Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it.” (Luke 13:8).

It has happened to all of us sometime or another. Usually in the spring time, but not exclusively. Fact is, it can happen anytime, and almost anywhere – even when and where you least expect it. Indeed, the more unlikely the place and time, the more astonishing it is to our unsuspecting senses. In particular, our sense of smell.

You wake up on a cheerful sunlit morning to new mercies and a fresh cup of coffee. Birds are singing in the trees, and a few friendly neighborhood noises hum in the background – giggling kids jumping on a trampoline, a one-eyed dog barking at a squirrel, and the drone of a lawn mower a block away. You step out the front door to greet the day and – wham! The full bodied aroma of rural America has been dumped somewhere in your immediate proximity, and you are located directly downwind.

Though no cattle have been seen in these parts for nigh unto fifty years, it smells like a truck load of ‘em spent the night two doors down, laughing and drinking and having a party. Piles of manure – fertilizer they call it these days – sit in the middle of the street waiting for the lawn crew to disperse it with creative dispatch in a newly landscaped yard. As far as you’re concerned, right now would not be soon enough.

You can’t breathe, at least not through your nose, ‘cause the smell will make your eyes roll back in your head. And you dare not breathe through your mouth, ‘cause that almost feels like your eating something. So you gasp with hands cupped over your face, and your eyes go crossed for lack of oxygen. Strangely enough, however, you somehow adapt to the odor and manage to make it through the unsolicited ordeal. And when its all said and done you see the worth of it in the lush, award-winning landscaping just down the street. Who knows, you might even order a pile or two yourself seeing how well things turned out.

Jesus told a story along these lines one day. "Once upon a time,” He said, “a man had a fig-tree growing in his garden, and when he came to look for the figs, he found none at all. Disappointed, he said to his gardener, 'Look, I have come expecting fruit on this fig-tree for three years and never found any. Better cut it down. Why should it use up valuable ground? This is space we can use for something else.' And the gardener replied, 'Master, don't touch it this year till I have had a chance to dig round it and give it a bit of manure. If it bears fruit after that, it will be all right. But if it doesn't, then you can cut it down.'" (see Luke 13:6-9).

The old King James puts it this way, “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it.” The phrase literally means “to dig all about it, and throw manure throughout it.” In other words, this was not going to be a neat and tidy job, wrapped up in a few surgical minutes. No, it was going to be prolonged, deliberate, disruptive, messy, and stinky.

Do you see any similarities to how your life has been lately? If so, be of good cheer, you are undergoing the Ministry of Manure. It seems that each one of us sometimes need our roots exposed, and a good dose of compost packed about us in order for us to grow strong, and become our most fruitful best.

Tune in tomorrow for another truck load!

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