I had great things planned for the three butternut squash. I imagined sauteing them to share at a community garden night so people would learn how to use them. I pictured a fine pie that people would think was pumpkin, but was actually made with butternut squash.
While we were gone to Pickle Lake, the three lovely butternut squash magically grew to full size. They grew on a plant that quickly developed powdery mildew, so I knew these were the only three we would get. One of the neighbor boys asked if they could pick them, but they looked a little green yet so I told them to wait.
I watched them through the weeks as the plant died, and decided by our next garden night, we would pick them. Last night, we got together for the garden night. Other people worked on cleaning up the dead plants, so I didn’t notice that the butternut trio was gone.
When the work was done, we quickly divided the produce into bags for people to take home before the thunderstorm broke.
“She said someone came yesterday and picked squash out of the garden and smashed them,” Mercedes said, pointing to her daughter.
I turned to Carmen, who had been picking up dead plants.
“Were there any butternut squash?”
All I can think of now is the crop of lovely baby watermelons growing just down the row from where the squash were, and my heart rate rises.
The truth is, we all have butternut squash that have been smashed at one time of our life or another. Perhaps a dream we thought we had figured out, something we had planted and nourished and watched with expectation. Something we had prayed over, often. Something we knew that God was growing into beauty.
And then, in a moment, or perhaps through a long period of time, the dream was thrown against a tree, or under a tire, and shattered into uselessness.
Ah, then, the sleepless nights, the flashbacks. Then, the questions, the fog of disbelief, the fear to dream again. Then, the silence. Then the lack of motivation to do well with the simple tasks of life.
For me, memories of obscenities, hurled down the hallway or the stairway. Memories of my own ego, my pride, detailing to God what I thought should happen. Fear of new dreams, falsely remedied by food and caffeine, in my case. Then despair that I’m not eating right, and gaining weight, and a foggy lack of interest in motivation.
Last weekend, three things broke through my fog. Funny, how a dream can be shattered in a moment, but hope can also break through in a moment, or a series of moments.
The first was a preacher named Ed Meyers, speaking at the convention where Marnell was helping his brother run sound.
“Because we have hope in Christ, temptations lose their power,” the speaker said. “Because we have hope, we know that this life is only a temporary thing.”
He talked about the hope of Christ’s calling in Ephesians 1. Paul, praying that the people he loved so much could know this hope. He was praying that his friends would catch just a glimpse of the great hope we have as followers of Christ, maybe not for a shatterproof life here, but for eternal life, and even in this life something better than prosperity: hope!
I was still processing that, when the second thing happened: I had a fantastic late-night chat with my sister-in-law Nancy and niece Janae about life and identity crises and stevia. (After reading my blog, Nancy decided that perhaps Starbucks would be the place to order an identity crisis. I didn’t get a chance to ask why.) I felt so refreshed.
I went home and went to work, but the word hope stuck with me.
Then, the third thing. As a child I memorized one of Emily Dickinson’s little poems and I recalled it, I think as I was carrying a laundry basket a few days later.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
There’s another verse, but this is the one I recall so vividly. And suddenly, as I climbed our wooden stairs, I stopped climbing.
Without the words. The tune without the words.
That’s what that means!
We wouldn’t need hope if we had words of explanation for everything that has happened in our lives. We wouldn’t need hope if we were always victorious. In short, we wouldn’t need hope if we could manage our lives effectively and determine our own destinies through our intelligence and foresight.
We don’t have the words. No one does, actually, as much as people claim to have the cure for life in this or that form. There are good ways to live and bad ways to live of course, but no way to be all-powerful.
But Christ, who came back from the dead, is an entirely different matter. And His tune we can sing, without the words of explanation.
“Let’s be accountable to each other about our goals for eating more healthy,” my Laurel Street friends suggested. Okay, so that was the fourth thing. We were sitting on Velinda’s deck last Saturday night eating, I will say, fairly healthy food.
We talked about our struggles and then went inside and and I sat on my couch and ate a cinnamon roll.
I did indeed! I can hear my Aunt Virginia scolding me. But it was almost like Christmas, it had been so long since we had been together.
And by the next day I was able to formulate a plan and together we shared our goals on Monday. Such a small thing, but picking back up and going on sometimes is a big thing.
Back to the garden, I hope the watermelons do well. I can imagine a hot August night, with the garden crew finishing their tasks, and my chef knife out under the pavilion slicing into the thick green rind. I can imagine cute photos of the children dripping juice all over our washable outdoor mats. I will be so sad if they get smashed, I might cry.
But the hope that Christ offers isn’t dependent on the tangibles of this life. It’s not even dependent on figuring out why the last dream was smashed, or figuring out if it was my fault because I didn’t pick the squash sooner, or any other endless quandary about what might have happened if….
There are no ifs in the Christian life.
But there is hope, no matter what.