After spending a little time in the backyard with our grandson the other day, I’m thinking about giving him a new nickname: “Earnest”. (Ernie, for short).
At 15 months old, he’s turning out to be quite the hard worker—perhaps more diligent than his Gramps will ever be!
The task at hand: raking the leaves.
From my perspective, it was more about having some outdoor fun with the young-un than getting any real work accomplished. Still, I had to admire “Ernie’s” resolve: Even without instruction, he set right to imitating the things he’d just seen me do: unfolding the oversized kraft bags…wrestling with the rake handle…and, of course, depositing those pesky leaves in the sack.
Which he did in a most delightful fashion: One to two leaves at a time.
Those tiny hands couldn’t handle much more of a payload, I suppose. But that didn’t diminish Ernie’s eagerness in the least. (And it pleased his Gramps, indeed.)
The episode became an Advent blessing when I recalled our little work session today…as I spent some quiet time reflecting on this Sunday’s scripture readings.
In them, I found a testament to the power of God – hard at work, reshaping creation. As Isaiah promises,
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed…
I learned something, too, about God’s perspective – insight and vision on a scale that humbles my own. The letter of St. Peter exhorts:
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
And perhaps most significantly, I encountered a truth about God’s responsibility – who’s really in charge of the project, after all? The great prophet we meet in the Gospel reading, John the Baptist, has no illusions about his role in the plan of salvation:
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me…”
I realized how often I tend to forget that part of the equation. That Jesus is the author of salvation, not me. That I am supposed to be part of God’s plan, and not the other way around.
Most times, I’m inclined to think that God could benefit from my advice. “There are some valleys in my life I’d like to have filled…and a mountain or two I’d prefer to be made low. And let’s get that all done sooner rather than later, what do you say, Big Guy?”
What a gift, then, to have the chance to ponder my little assistant’s inefficient process of gathering leaves into the bag. Left to his methods, it might well take a thousand years to complete the job. But I notice that the enormity of the task does not ensnare him.
Like John the Baptist, this eager toddler seems to know his place – and the knowledge actually liberates him to trust in a power and an outcome far beyond his ability to imagine. It frees him to participate in the work, too. Joyfully, purposefully, earnestly – one leaf at a time or two.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.