Even though it’s October, the air is a bit muggy and humid in the carport, where I usually run on the treadmill. Last week, the 10-point- something acres got mowed for hay, and I looked at the dips and valleys down that field in a whole new light. I have often wished it was flatter, so that it could be a nice space for entertaining. But with my 5K around the corner, I suddenly saw it as a training ground. As I ran across the stubble, I noticed threads of leftover grain, strewn in random piles across the field. My mind immediately fled to Ruth, the gal who deserted all she had ever known for a grieving mother-in-law and a new faith.
For all of Naomi’s bitterness, Ruth was a breath of fresh air. She was delightful, hardworking and beautiful. And though she, too, was grieving, she dove headfirst into serving others and minimizing her own pain. When she set out to gather food for her and Naomi, she found a field and humbly and gratefully began to gather the grain that was left behind. The boss-man Boaz noticed her, and instructed his men to leave larger chunks behind than usual, allowing her to glean a generous amount.
When I ran into the lowest dip, the air got cool and it was a welcome foe for my sweat. I mustered up strength to get up the hill and my mind went back to Ruth. She could not have fed her family without the grain they left behind. And not only did she find sustenance in that field, but she found grace. Grace enough for the journey, and hope that she might just survive in that new land.
If I could only survive this run, I’d be happy. It was so much easier to run when there was a pleasant breeze blowing. I found myself drawn to the heaps of hay, wanting to salvage them, even though I had no earthly use for them. I made a bit of a path along the tractor treads, following those lines and piles.
Joanna Gaines said that there came a time when she realized she was just surviving, despite a growing business, a beautiful family, a delightful marriage, and finally being out of the financial dumps. Doing what she loved every day, designing, and yet every day wanting something more. Specifically, a clean house. She realized she was missing out on the kids’ childhood by being on the hamster wheel of perfection. She resolved to stop feeling overwhelmed by the mess and intentionally put that aside while the kids were awake. To stop designing their house to be a showroom and begin designing it to be family-friendly.
I stopped to tie my shoelace. Had Joanna not changed her perspective, she might have left an entirely different legacy behind for her family. One that sought after perfection over enjoying life, things over people, mess over moments. These things we leave behind us… our kids are picking up what we’re throwing down. Those heaps of grain can be beautiful for those after us to glean, or they could be painful, hurtful, and debilitating.
Am I choosing to leave behind a legacy of spiritual things, or will my life only speak of materialism, perfection-striving, and hours wasted on social media? Will my children glean wisdom from my life, or have to sift through the junk to find gems? Will they find that I sacrificed pleasure for what’s important, or that I spent more time on the ballfield than I did in the pew?
It was getting harder as I went longer, yet oddly easier since the path was already determined for me. I spent less time deciding which way to go and simply focused my energy on running. I recalled a conversation I had with my husband a few weeks ago. I was taking a spiritual gifts test, and I thought it would be fun and eye-opening to hear his answers. One question asked how often my conversations turned to things of the Lord. With 1 being never and 5 being always, I knew that of all the questions on this test, this one would score a 5. Because I don’t talk about the weather, or politics, or the stock market, or shopping. I was shocked when Brandon gave me a 2. At first, it sort of stung, like he was reprimanding me. And then it occurred to me: he wasn’t around for the majority of my conversations.
He doesn’t observe the texts I type out or the direct messages I reply to every day. He doesn’t tag along to my coffee dates with my mentor, or lunches with the girl I disciple. He doesn’t read my blog posts, and he isn’t on social media to see my posts or comments there. And while we do occasionally talk about the sermon or compare notes on Scripture passages, the conversations I have with my closest girlfriends would probably blow his mind.
My ankle turned slightly as I attempted to make a sharp turn. I needed to be more careful or I would be unfit to run the race next month. The last thing I needed was a sprained ankle. I also recalled our neighbors telling us they had seen coyotes at dusk in our garden, and so my eyes were peeled for any frightening shadows.
It occurred to me that I didn’t want to spend all my time avoiding dangers and keeping myself healthy. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it (Luke 17:33). I wanted to focus on what I was leaving behind. What was I passing down? For starters, I want to talk about the Lord more around my family. I want to spend less time discussing food and more time dialoguing about the Father. I have been more intentional to talk about Jesus with with Eden, but it bothered me that my husband really had no idea what my life’s bent was all about. He knows I love Jesus, but I want my family to know that I don’t just know Him. I’m passionate about Him. I want to be on my phone less, teaching those around me that people are my number-one priority. I want to help college kids write argumentative essays and invite them to church. I want to take a meal to someone that I don’t know. If my home isn’t big enough to host hurricane refugees, I want to offer to cook, clean, and babysit for the ones who can host.
I used to be a planner to a fault. Anything that upended my schedule would send me into a panic at worst, or a bad mood, at best. The older I get, the more I feel the Lord softening me. He is reminding me that time can be structured and lassoed until it suits our lifestyles and needs perfectly. We are to redeem the time, because the days are evil. But my days aren’t like clockwork anymore. Today, they’re more messy, more spontaneous. There is more lingering with a friend who needs prayer. There are more phone calls and Facetimes with friends who need advice and encouragement. There are more afternoon trips to visit widows and extra batches of banana bread to take to new moms. This is where the fullest life I’ve ever had is found.
As I began my cool-down, I wondered what my life would look like ten years down the road. When the sun sets on my life here, what will I be remembered for? Will my children have tools to study God’s Word because they’ve seen mama do it? Will they see me using my gift of hospitality and my card ministry to encourage the body of Christ, so that they can find their gifts and do them well? As I do my work and prepare my meals and mop my floors, I’m leaving something behind. And at all times, those around us are in the gleaning business.
I don’t know what field you find yourself in, but I can promise you there are people walking it behind you, searching for joy, happiness, and sometimes just a smile. You may wish your calling was somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else. But there is a reason you are where you are. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s prompting, to pay for the person’s coffee behind you, to compliment a perfect stranger on the way that necklace looks on them, to open the door for a wheel-chair bound lady.
So today? My goal is to leave bigger chunks behind than usual, so that others can pick up on the Gospel and understand what being consumed with Christ looks like.