Hands rake leaves; faith opens refrigerators

(Photo by @storyanthology)

(Photo by @storyanthology)

I know there’s nothing there, because I just looked five minutes ago. But there's that something that keeps drawing me to the fridge, looking for something to eat, to snack on, or to keep me distracted. So I go once more, open the fridge once more, and am not surprised but somehow disappointed to find that it’s just like it was before.

I’m not hungry, and I’m not there because I’m hungry, I’m there because I’m restless, because I don’t want to do whatever it is I need to do, like lesson plan or grade essays or wrestle through some difficult thought for a blog post.

Or call my parents.

So I head back to the fridge, even though I know it won’t help, because it’s easier, because I’d rather hope for a miracle than deal with reality, and because it’s safe. Just like faith.

And I’m pretty tired of wasting my time with both.

This past Saturday, Judah should have been outside raking while Josey and I sat in the living room, talking. Instead though, he kept coming inside to get a drink of water, to get a snack, and then to get another drink of water – while the leaves continued to cover the ground – and I got frustrated, “Get outside and work,” I said. So he did. With a sulk and a huff, he shoved his shoes back on and shuffled out the door to the yard, the leaves, and the task of learning how to rake all on his own.

Judah’s never raked a yard before.

But I sent him out anyway, because I believe, deeply, that yard work can help build a young boy’s character, that it can instill in him a strong work ethic, grit, and the deep satisfaction of a job well done. And I was confident I was doing the right thing, that him being outside was better than watching movies or playing videogames, and that someday, even if many years from now, he would thank me for these days.

So I refilled my coffee and headed back to the living room. From the window, I could see him pushing leaves around, kicking small sticks, and generally accomplishing very little. And it was then that I realized just how fragile, just how weak and useless faith can be, if left to simple devices.

Judah doesn’t know how to rake, how to stuff leaves in the garbage can, or what it means to put in a hard days work. Because he is ten. And no matter how many times I send him out or how much faith I have that we’re doing the right thing, he won’t learn it on his own. I can hope for it, pray incessantly about it, even find empowering quotes that encourage leaving him in the front yard, by himself, to wrestle and struggle through this obstacle – because only when we don’t know what to do can we grow.

Or, I can put on my shoes and teach him how to rake in rows and how to stomp the leaves in the garbage can. I can tell stories of “when I was your age” and how I used to hate raking our giant yard but sometimes wish I were there again, smelling the fire, and fighting with my brothers and sisters and how, just like he’s experiencing now, those hours and days working outside formed blisters and built character.

Instead of believing that raking leaves will teach and mold Judah, I can chase him around the yard, stuff leaves down his pants, and show him what it means to be a family and struggle and work and live together.

Or, I can head to the fridge, to prayer, and wait for my son to finish.

I can call my parents.

Faith, like running to refrigerators, can be a destructive distraction from doing what truly needs to be done, leaving us frustrated and empty and staring at a fridge full of food and asking, “Why is there nothing to eat?”

Because what we’re craving isn’t in the fridge. It’s in us - our hands, our feet - and in the simple moments of choosing to live by faith. Not wait on it.