May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping.
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves. - Psalm 126:5-6
In my first memory, I’m in a hospital bed with high bars like a cage. I’m holding onto the railing and I’m crying. There are other cages in the room, but I have the one next to the window so my back is to them, my eyes straining to see out into the night. My mother had pointed to some lights, a restaurant below. Told me she would be right there. Told me she would be right back. But I’m scared and I’m lonely and I’m sobbing. Enter a nurse. “Ah, funny girl,” she calls heartily to the back of my head, “why are you laughing?”
I would not choose that my first memory be this. I would not choose it, but I’m grateful for it. The seeds that were planted then—pain, fear, loneliness—rested in the ground for a long time. They grew slowly at first, tender seedlings poking their heads tentatively out of rocky soil. Those seedlings were not as fragile as they seemed. They branched out and revealed themselves as resilience, flexibility, humor, curiosity, faith, compassion. Half a century later, I can hardly get my arms around the sturdy harvest that has grown from those tough little seeds first watered by the tears of my toddler self. Now I’m coming home bearing the harvest, songs of joy on my lips.
God, you do not cause us to suffer. Instead, you take the suffering we are given and plant it in the soil of your transforming grace and mercy. May we rejoice in the harvest. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.