As I was on leave over the last few weeks I spent a lot of time back home on the family farm, helping with projects wherever an extra pair of hands or a little extra muscle was needed. I helped my older brother pour cement for a feeding pad for the livestock and a sidewalk, I moved dirt, I loaded wood and I cut all the weeds down in the garden with a scythe.
One of the tasks was moving dirt by wheelbarrow from a pile up in the pasture down to my sister’s garlic beds by the house, a distance of some four hundred yards or so. As I was moving the first load (this was before I broke the wheelbarrow on the second load) my two-year-old nephew Layn was playing on the front lawn and he stopped what he was doing to watch me wheel this load of dirt down the road. As soon as I came off the road onto the driveway he came running across the lwan as fast as his short legs would carry him yelling one of his favorite words: “Holpin’? Holpin’?”
I said, “Sure, Layn, you can help, just don’t knock the wheelbarrow over.” So he set one of his hands on one arm of the wheelbarrow and walked with me all the way around the house to the garlic bed.
Now, in order to get to the garlic bed I had to bump up onto a sidewalk, hopping the load of dirt up a three inch ledge. The first time I hit it I didn’t have enough momentum so I came to a stop and spilled a little of the dirt. I let the wheelbarrow sit there for a minute to catch my breath before taking another run, and as soon as it was sitting still, Layn took out his tiny little matchbox sized bucket loader toy and began playing in the dirt, “Dig! Dump! Dig! Dump! Dig! Dump!” He can go on saying that for a lot longer than I am willing to type it.
I said, “Layn, Aunti needs the dirt over there. Can you take the dirt over there to Auntie?”
His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree at the prospect of being able to help, and he loaded up one heaping bucket of dirt in his teaspoon sized toy tractor’s bucket and ran over to where my sister was watching with her “you-think-you’re-really-funny-but-you’re-not” look on her face. Layn dumped that tiny bucket of dirt, all of about ten and a half grains of it, into the pallet that was going to be a garlic bed, and came running back for more.
Of course he had about five thousand trips left to make, but it didn’t matter to him because he was “holpin’!”
Eventually I did bump the wheelbarrow up on the sidewalk and dump the whole thing into the garlic bed, which he also thought was awesome! It’s so easy to impress a two-year-old. He did the same thing when I was cutting down the garden. He saw me up there swinging a scythe so when he came up with Auntie to bring me some water he grabbed his plastic hoe and wandered around in the places I had already cut down, beating the dead weeds as hard as he could. He worked himself quite out of breath too. He was not playing around with those weeds!
Does Layn really provide us with any help on the farm? No. Of course not. Does he get in the way sometimes? Absolutely. The work would almost always go faster without him around, and someone always has to keep an eye on him to keep him out of the way of scythe blades, tractors, poower tools, welders, bonfires, horses hooves, etc. But it doesn’t matter to him because he just wants with all his little heart to be “holpin’” with whatever his Daddy and Uncles are doing.
Sometimes I feel like Layn. I see people around me who need help, who need God at work in their lives. Sometimes I see God’s work, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think I see it and sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes I get the details, but not the purpose, like realizing that we want to move the dirt, but not understanding the end goal of raising garlic. Sometimes I try to help out, trying to dig someone out of a mountain of dirt a mile high, one heaping teaspoonful at a time.
Do I actually provide God with any help? No. He doesn’t need me. Do I get in the way? I daresay I do, all the time. And sometimes God has to pull me out of the way, when the job is too dangerous or too tricky for me, and then I cry and pout because He won’t let me help. On the other hand, just as Layn’s parents and uncles don’t try to shield him from getting tired, or dirty, bumped or bruised, scratched or scraped, so God doesn’t try to shield me from every little thing. He lets me stick my hand in, get my feelings hurt, my pride bruised, my brain confused and my heart broken. And then I whine about it, but I still go back for more.
It’s all part of trying to grow up to be just like Him.