So often trials are compared to storms -dark clouds, rain, torrent... then comes the rainbow, then comes the rest.
Sometimes He lets it rain.
Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.
A few days ago, I sat on the shores of a lake in Arizona. I was up in the pines, camping with my family. We were squeezing out every last drop of summer. Danny was fishing with the kids, and I'd just finished skipping rocks. I didn't buy a fishing license because
1) It saved us some money
2) I don't know how to fish
3) I have notebooks that love being written in on the shores of lakes in the pines
My toddler and I stuck together because she didn't care about fishing either. She climbed up rocks, throwing her hands in the air.
"Queen of the world!"
A Valentine skipping stone:
My inflammation worsened -it had been flaring up, maybe because I was constantly on the move? So I sat down next to my daughter and we threw big rocks into the water -squealing with every *SPLASH*
The water felt so good on our hot faces.
She put her feet in the lapping water and spoke to it, "Be nice, water. Be nice to Alice."
I sat down in our red camping chair, hunkering down so the sun couldn't find me. It wasn't easy -the Arizona sun has a way of finding EV.ER.EE.THING. Even the lakes around us were evaporating at a weirdly alarming rate, making fishing a pretty dumb idea.
I watched my daughter build a castle out of rocks and sighed in relief as the sun fell behind the ONE cloud in the sky. My mind went back years -twenty, fifteen...
My Dad owns a farm and a small herd of cattle. He was the living mash-up of the Oklahoma! hit, "The Farmer and The Cowman."
Oh, the Farmer and the cowman should be friends...
My Dad WAS a farmer AND a cowman. This meant he grew his own hay which worked out well because he had 6 kids to help him grow, cut, turn, bale and pick up the hay. After my brothers left home, he BOUGHT A MACHINE that picked up hay. It was a betraying day for me... picking up hay was the hardest, most grueling part of the hay business and ALL THIS TIME THERE WAS A MACHINE THAT DID IT?!
But I digress.
Those hot Arizona summers picking up hay are scorched into my brain. Some days I'd ride in the truck with Dad and watch in wonder as the boys in town would help my brothers pick up bale after bale. Sweat would run down everyone's faces. Their arms were sun burned and scratched... they could wear long sleeves but the length was torture... worse than scratched arms.
The hay was carefully stacked, row by row. A special pattern had to be made to keep the hay from falling over, so one boy would stack and the others would pitch the bales onto the trailer. The tractor or truck would pull the trailer along at a snail's pace.
I think they have a thing called Cross Fit now that gives men the bodies I saw my brothers build throwing alfalfa bales around.
When we picked up oat bales, I could help. I couldn't pitch them to the top of the stack, but my patient older brother would help me nudge them onto the lowest part of the trailer. As I got older -12 or so, I graduated to Driver.
I was complete bunk at it.
I was so nervous trying to do it PERFECTLY because the thought of messing up in front of the boys my Dad had hired was just unfathomable.
My first real-life crush was formed out on those fields.
I can still feel that hot sun, the sweat, the parched summer days...
As I sat on the shore and watched my daughter talk to her castle, I felt the metaphor for trials shift in me.
When trials rage in my life, it feels less like a storm and more like a hot summer day. I'm racing against the tractor to get the bales pitched onto the trailer. I'm the driver, the stacker, the pitcher... the sun is blazing, and sweat is rolling down my neck... my body is coated in my own perspiration. With every bale I pluck up, one more is set down on the unending field of toil and sweat.
That is what it feels like.
No clouds, no drops of rain, no torrential storm to send me into respite. Just sun.
We are taught that Christ is in the Sun (just read it in my scriptures, though I can't remember the reference!), and this is true for me... when I'm on that figurative field with those figurative heavy, rough bales, I am closer and nearer to God than ever.
It is HARD and it is TRYING and I want to give up and spit and lie down and I WANT TO STOP, but trials aren't like that. Even when I physically lie down in the midst of a trial, there's still a blazing heat going on inside, ripping me apart.
The sun is a healing energy that also burns -it's made of FIRE.
My baptisms by fire has come through Christ and at NO POINT was it easy.
Coming home from those fields was the best -dunking myself into bath water, filling my body with water, eating a good meal, and sitting down. You can't beat that feeling. It measured up to the feeling you get after spending a day branding cattle and coming home to wash the stench of burning hide and human sweat off.
Nothing in this world has come closer to me than the way repentance feels than a long shower after a full day pitching hay or branding cattle. Even rounding them up is less intense.
So it is with trials -after the work, the sweat, and the seemingly unending output on my part -there is living water to be had in abundance. It's there all along, but after the trial it seems more precious.
God is in the sun and the water. He's the most miraculous gift -the most present, the most mysterious, the most attractive.
And so we find that another sort of romance is flourishing on my Fields of Toil... I desire God, and unlike the hired hand I longingly stared at through my coke-bottle glasses, God actually knows I'm there and what's more? DESIRES ME with a passion far deeper than any I've cooked up.
Because He desires me, He gives me Fields of Toil.
And that's where the metaphor shift is vital for me... I see the point of pain, I see a purpose -a loving purpose in pain. Pain becomes necessary -thereby making it endurable.
My pleas to end it all, my declarations of self-weakness dissipate and I stand under the hot sun, knowing now, as I didn't five years ago, there's something great at the end of the field.
Knowledge, compassion, growth, clarity.
God has led me in the path of healing these days -physically healing. He's led me to resources that will aid in boosting the negative ions in my life.
Negative ions are found in waterfalls and mountains, in nature -they energize and build us up.
Positive ions are found in electronics and man-made structures -they drain us.
There must be a balance.
And as I think of the rain falling, I see a gift from God, for especially in lightening there is a SURGE of negative ions, and we are uplifted thereby.
The world is my university -the sun my teacher, the rain my gift, the earth my healer.
And God is in them all.
And God is in me.