Sometimes I use mulch around my plants outside. Mulch can have a
fertilizer that helps the plants to grow. One of the main ingredients of some
mulch is manure. It smells bad. For a couple of days, you can hardly walk
outside. Our kids say, “Dad, what happened out here? It stinks”. But if you
come back after several days the odor goes away. If you wait a week or two,
the plants start to bloom. They’re thriving. They’re seeing new growth. The
fertilizer, as bad as it smells, is giving the plants valuable nutrients and
minerals they wouldn’t get otherwise.
We all go through some things in life that stink. We don’t like it. It
wasn’t fair. Why did my relationship not make it? Why did I come down with
this sickness? Why did I lose my main client? That stinks. Well, how about a
new perspective? That’s fertilizer. It may smell bad right now. It may seem
like a bunch of manure got dumped on you, but there’s growth in all that. We
could even go so far as to say that many times the stinky stuff is not working
against you, but for you.
For many, it’s tough to see it, though. We get so locked in to needing
good stuff happening all the time. But problems are everyone’s share in life.
Take them one at a time. Calm your mind when faced with a tough day or
week. Heck, get more sleep. Stir up your faith and talk down your fears. How
often we feel defeated before we’ve even begun to fight. Let’s not grow
resigned; rather, grow resilient.
I like the story about the donkey that fell down a well. The animal
brayed and brayed as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he got
an idea. He wanted to fill in the well anyway, so now he’d do it. That donkey
was smart and stubborn enough to know what to do, thought the farmer. He
asked his neighbors to bring their shovels and help. They gathered around the
well and started to shovel dirt into it.
At first, the mule didn’t understand how this was going to save it. So, it
brayed like crazy, getting hit on its back with dirt. It kept knocking the dirt
off its back and stomping and stomping as the dirt kept falling and piling up.
Then that smart donkey saw something. It was getting closer to the top. With
every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey shook it off and stomped it
down so it could step on it. It was using the dirt thrown on it to come up. The
donkey kept shaking the dirt off and stepping on up. Finally, it stepped up
over the edge of the well and trotted off.
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The question is
what you’re going to do with it.
Why do some people struggle through life, defeated, discouraged,
always overcome by problems while others overcome odds, seeing that
things aren’t going to bury them? We can get bitter, sour, discouraged, or we
can turn things on their head and not get buried. Find fertilizer when things
get stinky. When stuff gets thrown at you, let it bounce off and build
something from it. Sometimes being stubborn as a mule is the only way to
Each of us are like those seeds that were sown in Jesus’ parable. But
it’s more like we’re all those seeds in all those places. We don’t only live in
the good soil; we don’t only live on the rocky or the thorny soil. We’re
spread out all over the place. We grow differently in each place. We can
grow well in a loving, kind, respectful, health family. In good soil, we’re
shown and live how to trust others, believe in goodness, how to have a good
heart, use kind words, and build a life with others.
But we can also grow in rocky places, when we must make choices of
who to support, who to side with, what values you’re going to keep and
which ones you’re going to throw away. There are times when the soil is thin
and you’re on your own, or when others aren’t how they appear and they’re
not really for you. We grow in those places too. Of course, we want to be in
the good soil, but you know when life is too easy it doesn’t always turn out
best. When we don’t struggle, we may not grow strong or spiritually.
Nothing is as beautiful as when something grows unexpectedly, in a
tough place. I saw a report on the news about a small city in South America
that has Paraguay’s largest land dump on its border. Barely any electricity or
running water in that town. The poorest make their living by searching
through the trash trying to find something they can sell. Hours and hours a
day, they rummage through it.
One day, a girl found what looked like a violin. She took it to a local
musician, Fabio Chavez, who had started an orchestra for children.
Originally, Mr. Chavez had seen the children playing in the garbage and it
broke his heart. He wanted to help. He decided to start a music school. That
violin however changed things. He fixed that violin and then came up with
an idea. He would make instruments from the garbage itself. Mr. Chavez
asked a carpenter friend to help. They started going through the trash looking
for materials they could use to make instruments. An old piece of pipe would
become part of a saxophone. Discarded wooden boxes, parts of guitars.
Different size buckets and barrels would become drums. In a few months, he
had violins, cellos, guitars, drums, all made from trash. He called his
orchestra the Recycled Orchestra.
Now, they have a full orchestra composed of dozens and dozens of
children playing instruments made from the garbage dump. They put a clip
on YouTube and it went viral. They started getting invitations from around
the world. Today, they play in concert halls everywhere they go.
There’s also been another change. In the community, children are
respected. Earlier, when Chavez began teaching music, often the parents
would take the kids away by the hand because they had to go to work. Now,
that’s unthinkable. The orchestra has changed the community. Chavez says,
“The kids playing in the Recycled Orchestra are creating something gorgeous
out of nothing.”
Make music from your mess. The Lord is an amazing conductor.
Nothing that’s happened to you has been wasted. It may not have been good,
or felt good, or been right at the time, but God knows how to use it for your
That’s what one person did who grew up in a very difficult situation.
Her father died when she was six years old. Her mother had to go on dialysis
shortly after that. When other children were out playing sports and having
fun, she took care of her mother. Twelve years old, she’d have to go to the
grocery store, cook for the family. She had to get her little brother dressed
and ready for school each day. It looked like she was at a disadvantage. It
looked like her seeds had all been thrown on rocks and among thorns. But
she was determined to be good soil herself. She kept being her best, holding
on to hope, keeping her heart alive, knowing that doing right strengthens her
in God’s grace.
Despite the odds being against her, she excelled in high school, got a
full scholarship to a major university. She went on to get her master’s degree.
Today she has her doctorate degree. Good people have God’s grace on them
and in their lives. Be strengthened in your goodness. Trust the Lord to bring
growth from your goodness.
If you’re going through tough times, remember a sickness is not the
end. Depression is not the end. That person that left you, the one that broke
your heart, is not the end of your story. If they left, you didn’t need them.
God has somebody better! Don’t get comfortable in your troubles. Be
determined to be set free. We refuse to let self-pity and discouragement be
the game plan, our life’s plan. Those are not fallback options. Don’t just go
through it, grow through it. Recognize that it’s making you stronger and
you’re well able to carry forward. Trust what God has for you. Life may not
have treated you fair, but the Lord is fair.
Several years ago, there was a story on the news about a 20-year-old
student who walked into an elementary school with an assault rifle and
started shooting. He didn’t hit any people, only windows. After everyone
scattered, he barricaded himself in this small room. There was a woman
hiding behind the counter, the high school accountant named Antoinette
Tuff. Ms. Tuff stood up and he drew the rifle. She began to talk to him. She
was kind and calm as can be.
He began to talk. He told her how he was off his medicine. He felt
hopeless, like he had no purpose in life. Miss Tuff said, “I know how you
feel. My husband of 33 years left me and recently I tried to commit suicide.
But by the grace of God, it didn’t happen”. She went on to tell how God had
given her a new beginning. Now she was restored and started a new business.
Excited about her life. She looked him in the eyes and said, “God did it for
me, and can do it for you”.
Standing there with the assault rifle, helicopters overhead, SWAT
teams surrounding the building, the young man put the rifle down, walked
out peacefully. Nobody was harmed. Ms. Tuff said afterwards, “I know God
put me there because I’ve been through what he’s going through”.
That’s the way our God is when we go from manure to mature. The
Lord can take broken dreams, mistakes, injustices, and make sure they’re not
the last word. It doesn’t look like any good can come out of what you’re
going through. It looks like it’s just wasted time or experience or pain. But
it’s not. In fact, that’s right where your best life starts.
I want you to hear this: When you defeat what was defeating you, you
grow more than you thought possible. There’s another whole side of you still
to come forth. We have portions of us that we’ve kept locked away behind
problems that are solvable, inside pain that’s healable, aligned with
perspectives that are damaging us. Those are nexus points for the fuller life
you’ve wanted and are praying for. They’re inhibiting you and keeping you
from what is yours. That chain around your ankles, those blinders on your
eyes, need only a little more of a push and a tug and they would fail and fall.
Solve your problem. Find your healing. Change your view. Grow into the
new you! We’re not defeated even when life stinks. We’re growing a
hundredfold, planted and fertilized and blooming.
Can the church say Amen