“A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing…” –Ecclesiastes 3:5
My eyes were drawn to the movement I saw as I rounded the street curve for my late evening walk. His back was towards me, his face turned downwards; his arms in motion; he was moving something back and forth with his hands. As my walk took me closer to him I knew immediately what he was doing, or at least “trying to do.” My neighbor was raking.
I know all about raking. I come from a long line of “rakers”. As a child, I grew up on Oaklane Road, where our yard was full of fallen oak leaves every fall. Raking was a part of my fall seasonal chores. Now, decades later, I live on “Oakbrook” Drive and our yard is full of not only oak trees but pine trees. And during this particular dry season of fall in the south, there seem to be plenty to rake these days. After two months of record dry heat, followed by a wind/rain storm days earlier, this community, and particularly our neighborhood was left with drifts of fallen pine straw unlike anyone had ever seen before. My neighbor was raking his pine straw in large piles. Gathering it all up, to be picked up and discarded, never to be raked again. Dry. Dead. Pine straw.
Life is about gathering of many things.
As I have grown older, raking for me has changed from being a “chore’ to being therapy; and as I think about my neighbor’s present situation, maybe more so for him at this time in his life. One definition of “raking” is “to gather”. I’m a “gatherer”. I go through frequent seasons of ‘gathering’. I gather lots of things – some good, some not so good. On my good days, I’ve been known to gather healing memories, good clothes to donate to the disadvantaged and an organized series of thoughts for a reflection. However, on my ‘not so good days’ I’m guilty of gathering ‘heavy worrisome items’. Currently, I’m metaphorically gathering ‘life draining’ things. I’m gathering the threat and worries of Leukemia returning for the third time in the precious life of my dear husband. I’m gathering the unknown future of the steady eyesight leaving my mother’s aging eyes causing her to be blind; I’m gathering the fear of our oldest daughters physical health as her doctor studies her scans showing steady increase of thinning bone; and most recently I’ve gathered the break-up of my youngest granddaughter’s young parents. And honestly, it’s more than I can gather and carry most days.
Jesus let go of what He gathered.
Jesus knew all about gathered things. Curious, hurting people tended to gather around him. There were times, frequent times in his life where the “gathering” needs were followed by times of “letting go”, pulling away, drawing to a quieter place, to release what he had gathered in order to be what He needed to be for future ‘gatherings’.
Luke 5: 15 – “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came(gathered), to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”. Maybe if pine straw was prevalent in the Middle East during the days of Jesus, He would be found raking, gathering dead straw, followed by a period of ‘letting go.’
Letting go is letting things be and letting God heal us.
My neighbor, can be seen daily, raking, gathering and letting go. He’s not only knee deep in pine straw, he is knee deep in grief after having lost his precious wife just weeks ago. He may or may not realize, that the dead pine straw is a metaphor for his present season in life. After stopping to talk to him, he is doing what is necessary – “gathering” and “letting go.” For now, raking pine straw will take him where he needs to be.
And me? I’ve raked up over 25 piles of pine straw in two days. My sweet husband has gathered them in a wheelbarrow and taken them to the trash pile – never to be gathered again.
Sandy Brister is married to her husband Ken for 40 years and they have two precious grand daughters who live close by. Sandy is also the ordained Presbyterian Minister who pastors St. Andrew Presbyterian Church In Leesville, LA.
You can check out their Facebook page here.
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