Archives, Biography, Songs of Assent

Do the Next Thing

I have been watching some new bushes pass through autumn.  They held their leaves longer than the cousins next to them, and turned a mellow shade of gold before becoming barren twigs for the winter.  On the other side of the garden is a bush that is still brilliant red.  Today I wished that I had more than one of them, but that isn’t how the landscaping plan developed. 

In matters of landscaping, it is good to have a plan.  Colors, size, need for light and water and the proper soil—all of these factors matter, and it has taken time…and a good plan by a competent gardener to develop even a simple garden that thrives.  

But in the midst of the large-scale planning comes the daily activities.  Mow the lawn.  Rake the leaves. Mulch those precious roses by the wall. 

I find myself in a season where the landscaping for this plot of my own life appears to be somewhat established for the present.  There’s been plenty of change to get here: “Oh, but Lord, that’s my soul’s favorite bush.  It’s been blooming in the spring and throughout the summer and has really attractive leaves in the fall.”   And it is as though the Lord says, “Yes, I know.  It was lovely for a season, but I have other plans for this particular space in your life at this point.”  

Having been through some tumultuous years, I am beginning to find this season surprisingly restful.  And here is the reason:  I only have to do the next thing.  Teach the class, talk to the friend, write the next little piece.   My prayer has shifted from “Lord, help me understand what you are doing,” to “Lord, what is the next thing I am to do today?”

And I think often of Simplicity’s song.  Of Mary who asks not for an explanation of God’s great plan, but for simple understanding of the next thing: “How shall this be, since I am a virgin?”   And when she is told that the Lord has it well in hand, she responds,  “Let it be to me according to your word,” and then does the next thing: she goes to visit Elizabeth. 

And I find myself wondering how much wasted energy I have spent over straining to discern the larger plan.  (I’ve never really gotten it right.)  I realize again that the Father is a much better gardener than I will ever be, and that “doing the next thing” may not just be a seasonal, activity, but the central steps of obedience, freedom and joy. 

Father, may your Holy Spirit produce in me a trusting heart that simply does the next thing.  If I need to know something more, I trust you to reveal it in your time.  But grant me the humility and contentment to live in the day I am in, entrusting the next to your loving, expert care.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN

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