My church has a Sunday School class, called Hands of Faith, that makes things for people.
The idea of the group is that ordinary stuff can become sacred stuff, so while they meet they are always doing something with their hands that will benefit someone else. They have knit tiny hats for preemies; they have made prayer squares for people hurting; and they have even turned old grocery bags into mats for the homeless. They are kind of a big deal in my humble opinion.
Two summers ago, they requested use of the church kitchen on a Sunday morning and they all made pesto. I was so excited that I joined them and made a little of my own out of the basil from our garden. What a life to make pesto between worship services, I thought to myself.
Fast forward a couple of years and the Pesto Chef In Residence sent me an email. She and another Sunday School member were going to take some basil clippings and see if they would grow roots. She wanted me to ask my farming husband for pointers.
I decided to join them and took a few clippings and put them in Mason jars in windows throughout the house. I told my 4-year-olds that they were in charge of monitoring them and reporting on their progress. Every time I looked I couldn’t see any roots, and I figured since my helpers had been manhandling them that they didn’t stand a chance.
It turns out, I was wrong.
Determining it was time to go ahead and call it, I decided since the leaves were still good, I would take some to go on my lunch. Except when I pulled the basil out of the jar, to my surprise, there were these luscious long roots on the bottom.
My girls were playing upstairs with their dad and I came out hollering, “The basil! The basil! Come and see!!”
They didn’t come see by the way. They were not impressed.
But I felt that I had just been taught a sacred lesson from an ordinary plant. Just when I had given up, called it, decided it was impossible, there it was:
New life. New possibility. A new beginning.
One of my favorite scriptures is found in Isaiah and says this:
Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I find myself in the desert or in the wilderness I am rarely looking for a new thing. Maybe that is why my expectations were so low on my little basil clipping.
2020 has given us a multitude of reasons to throw in the towel, turn into that which we hate, become overcome with despair. It has felt like a journey through the desert or the wilderness, and we aren’t out yet.
But… maybe there is something deep down within us growing roots. And maybe those roots are so delicate, so slight, that we just can’t see them yet. Maybe we are being shaped in ways that are utterly painful now but could influence the ways we love and live for the rest of our lives.
When I planted that basil several months ago, Willie brought me something called Manure Tea (yep, eww gross). It is a natural fertilizer made out of, you guessed it, cow manure, but I tell you what, I have a black thumb and for the first time my plants grew.
Because of poop.
Think about that for a minute.
Maybe 2020 feels less like the wilderness and more like steeping a big old pot of manure tea. (2020 – eww, gross.)
And yet, isn’t it amazing what God can do with that which we have already given up on?
I am so grateful when my people make the Good News come to life. My little basil clipping may have been just an ordinary thing, but for me, it was more. It was a sign, a tether, a tangible hope to keep moving forward through this wilderness.