For some reason, when I am in the midst of a crisis, I feel the need to clean. I want my house to be spotless, everything in its place. I have heard that this can be part of the grieving process, and it makes sense. There is a need for something to be controlled and in order.
The day we buried Audrey, we had our entire family come over to our house afterwards to share a meal. For the first 45 minutes, I was upstairs scrubbing my bathroom floor like a maniac. Todd came to check on me and asked if I wanted to come downstairs. I told him I needed another half hour and the cucumber-smelling Target cleaner (made by Method…trust me, worth the $5 investment). We were at a point in time where the best option was just to go along with whatever seemed normal in that moment, so he got the cleaner and 2 sponges. While our families talked and played outside, Todd and I sat on the cold tile in our funeral clothes and tried to clean away some of the hurt together.
On Friday night, I decided that the playroom needed to be addressed. I told the girls what we were going to be doing, and brought in the big black garbage bags. One for “trash” and the other for “the poor kids.” We started sorting through old dress-ups, dried up markers, and baby toys that I was holding onto. A couple minutes into the process, Abby and Ellie began to discuss their plan of attack, and this is what I heard.
“Ellie, let’s give these to the poor kids.” Abby then explains, “They LOVE naked Barbies with crazy hair.” She waves around a ballerina Barbie that looks like she has spent a few hours in the spin cycle.
“Okay. And also, let’s give them this.” Ellie holds up a Ken doll with no head. Yes, I’m serious. “They will really want this guy.” She shoves him into the bag and claps her hands together like she’s really starting to get somewhere.
(Insert “teachable moment” bell here)
“Hey girls, I’m noticing that you are choosing the things that you don’t like for the poor kids. That doesn’t really make it a sacrifice, it just means you are giving them the things that you don’t play with anymore.”
They are staring at me, wide-eyed, plan interrupted. I continue.
“It doesn’t mean as much if it doesn’t hurt a little. I want you each to choose something that means something to you and then put it in the bag.”
At this point, Ellie earnestly asks if I am going to put my new-ish purse in the bag. I was tempted to make up a story about how poor kids don’t really like Coach bags, but I decided to keep my mouth shut and let the Holy Spirit tell me what I need to keep and what I need to give away.
The idea of God doing the same with us has struck me many times when I am in the midst of “pruning seasons.” Years ago, I was reading about the threshing floor in my Bible, and I became fascinated by it. Basically, it is a place high on a hill (so that the wind can assist the workers), where the chaff and the wheat are separated. The chaff, which is useless, blows away in the wind because of how light it is. The grain is heavier so it falls to the ground and is gathered to be harvested. I cannot tell you how many times God has brought this image to me in the midst of feeling “threshed” in order to remind me that His hands are doing the sorting. I beg Him to tell me what my offering should be, and then I ask for the strength to give it away. I guess you all know by now that my family feels the sting of winnowing, and we have all asked many times why we have been chosen. Late Friday night, I felt like He led me into His word, as He has many times, and promised me that if I would just spend time with Him there, He would reveal a hidden treasure to me.
I began to sort through all of the references to “the threshing floor” in the Bible, and became more and more entranced by the way it showed up in beautiful stories that I have loved for years. The first is in Genesis (50:10-11), where Joseph and his brothers are mourning the death of their father Israel (formerly Jacob). Later, Ruth lays at the feet of Boaz at the command of her mother-in-law, begging to be “redeemed” by him (Ruth 3:6-9). I urge you to read the book of Ruth if you have never done so…it is a beautiful image of what Christ came to do for us, and plus, it’s really short. That way you can feel accomplished at having read “an entire book of the Bible….” 🙂
The story that stood out to me the most begins in 1Ch. 21:18-28, where David is purchasing a threshing floor from Ornan, and although Ornan tells David that he will give it to him free of charge, David insists on paying full price. He is standing on the ground of “sifting,”explaining that he will not take the easy way. He will do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, regardless of the price.
I believe fully that I will stand before the Lord one day, and I want to tell Him that I did the same. I want to say that I was sifted, and that I did what David did next, because when I read these words, I knew I had started to uncover the beauty of what God was revealing to me.
“So David gave to Ornan for the site 600 sheckels of gold by weight. And David built there an altar for the Lord… (1Ch. 21:25-26)
He built an altar to worship the God who threshes.
And here is the best part. If you have a Bible, skip to 2Ch. 3:1. I pray that God will use this passage with you for the rest of your life, as I know He will for me.
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared to David, his father, in the place that David had appointed on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite…”
The Temple itself was built on a threshing floor. Oh, what beauty can come of the hurt.
I cried as I read these words, because although I have always known it to be true in black and white, it is entirely different to be reading it in the midst of the winnowing. I needed to believe in the harvest that is up ahead, and to trust that God is going to redeem the hurt.
Only God Himself knows why we stand on this ground, but there is something that you and I can do from here, and today, I am choosing to built an altar to the Lord. I’m not going to say that it is easy, nor that it is painless. It isn’t. What I want is my daughter to be asleep in her crib and for Luke to be in his mother’s arms. And yet, I know this, and I am praying for you to know it too, deep down in a place where nothing has been in a long time.
The God of Jacob, of Ruth, of David, of Solomon, and of you and me wants to help us build where the hurt has been. I am praying as I write these words that you will be inspired, even in the wake of devastation, to worship Him with eager expectation of the harvest.
My heart is still broken, I can tell you that much.
My hands, however, are busy.
Oh, Jesus, we know not the hour of redemption. Teach us to walk closely in step with You, and to believe in what we cannot see from the threshing floor...