Zarah hugged her mug of coffee and surveyed the front garden. She should get a move on. After three weeks the sky was finally clear. The question that gripped at her heart, however, was, why bother?
Why put all that work into the garden? All that effort into living the way God wanted her to live? Why bother when at any moment he might capriciously knock everything into confusion?
Just when she thought her family had found their niche.
Of course they’d been warned. ‘Don’t apply for that church. You won’t fit in. You guys aren’t exactly going to endorse their middle class values, are you?’
They’d been right. But then she and Andy had believed this was the place God wanted them to be. There was no doubt God had blessed her husband’s ministry, calling out young adults from the congregation to take on the role of leadership and watching the youth group grow and grow.
But what they didn’t know at the time was – the pastor hadn’t really wanted them in the first place. Or that the parents wanted youth group to be a nice safe place for their own kids and were appalled when un-churched kids from the state schools started to attend.
Zarah began to weed gently around the jonquils. Before the frosts had hardened the ground too much, she’d planted them along the edges of the porch, so that she could sit each morning, reading her Bible, enjoying their sweet fragrance. Another week and the blooms would be open, nodding cheerfully in the breeze, conveying their fragrant goodwill to everyone who came to her front door.
She worked the soil that God had created - that she nurtured on his behalf. That morning the song that usually buzzed on her lips, rising into a hum of praise could not be found in her heart
She peeled off her sweater. What a pleasure it was to feel the warmth of the sun on her back. She tried to pray as she planted the heartsease along the pathway that lead to the porch. But no prayers would come. Only angry recriminations.
How could you let the leaders of the church treat us so badly…. Again! Aren’t you God? Aren’t you in control? Don’t you see how things are so difficult for us already? We’ve been students for so long. We’re just crawling out of the poverty cycle. We love this home. I love the church choir. We’re making friends. Andy’s ministry is blooming and suddenly… nothing. It’s all gone. You’ve taken it all away. How could you do that?
Once the sun was drenching the back yard she began to inspect the fruit trees. They were all doing well except the peach. She’d pruned it radically because she wanted to shift it to another place. There was not a bud on it. Tears coursed down her cheeks. She had killed it.
She raged throughout the day, keeping her thoughts to herself. Like an automaton, she picked the boys up from school. Fed them dinner. Played with them. Read to them. Prayed with them.
She went to bed alone. Andy was still on the road. Trying to keep a roof over their heads. He didn’t know when he would be home. She hadn’t minded before, the meetings, late nights out with the kids, but now she really resented his absence.
His life was in as much turmoil as hers. Yet they couldn’t discuss it.
I don’t understand you, God. Aren’t you the God of order and not chaos? Look at what you’ve done to our lives. Call that order? I don’t. Where’s your order now, huh?
She had given her life to the Lord when she was fourteen. Risked the anger of her parents and lost the love of her brothers. She had given up her career to study the Bible and, later, when God directed, started a family. Hadn’t she sought to obey Him; to give herself daily as a living sacrifice?
The darkness pressed in on her. Tears dampened the pillow.
Prune me more, Lord, and I will die.
Zarah hardly dared to close her eyes. She feared that if she went to sleep, the next morning she might wake up and truly not believe.
Sleep eventually overcame her. Dragged her down. As she felt herself falling into the agony of a life without God, she looked down.
There beneath her were two outstretched arms. Muscles straining. Veins popping. Ready and waiting to catch her.
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