It was cold in the hammock. The lace was only a thin sheen between me and the stars, and I rocked gently under green and sporadic night lights as I waited for sleep to come.
I am tired of waiting and rocking these days. It feels like we are always on the brink of new and yet tethered to the past, somehow living in the middle of the tension. My hammock is all of this perfectly exemplified. Strung between trees, close enough to touch earth but lifted enough to feel above. I am hanging in the tension. I am sleeping in it, listening, waiting.
The stars, they hang low like the apples we’ll pick this fall. They are dripping with heavenlight and I want to graze my fingers beneath them and feel the sweet dew of peace. They’re always there, I tell myself, on days when the sky is blue and easy, and on days when the rain sweeps in over the hardest conversations in a park. Heaven is constant, I tell myself. All of this world is changing, and my heart bends and breaks, falls and races in a handful of different ways, but the heavens? They are always there, bending low as night rests. I am swinging between earth and Heaven, and praying for peace.
How often do I try to pretend this tension isn’t doing something in my soul?
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I have finally found a few hours to work. On hands and knees, we tend the garden beds and she is pressed close to my side as I pull at weeds before we plant. These weeds are voracious. Their roots are both deep and wide, and with each exasperated breath, she echoes me.
“Ugh, why do we have to pull out the weeds…” she says as she yanks the smallest of the small greens out.
“Because they’re not what we want,” I say in-between grunting and pulling. These ones are sturdy. They’ve been here awhile, long before we moved into this house and called it home. Once upon a time, this was someone else’s garden bed. But today it’s ours and we are tending the things long forgotten.
“But this is hard,” she says. “Let’s just leave them here.”
“Don’t you love the flowers?” I ask her, sliding a muddy hand across my brow. “All of the mums and hibiscus, maravilla and clematis?” She nods, mimicking me in wiping her brow, yet now there is a streak of dirt across her forehead. “Well the weeds? They’re killing the flowers. Maybe not directly, but they’re killing by stealing. They’re taking all of the good food, good soul, good sunshine…” and as soon I said the word “kill” her face dropped. She went from exhaustion to mission.
She turns back and yanks hard at another deep-rooted weed, it’s slender stem pulls straight out of the earth along with a string of vines and leaves that have spread just under the turf that we cannot see. “YOU WEEDS. STOP KILLING THE FLOWERS!” She is angry now, a girl on a mission.
And it’s in this action I see the tension. We cannot have the flowers without ready ground. We cannot have ready ground without the pulling of weeds. The past meets the present: a forgotten, overgrown garden under our hands. The tension of what was, what is and what we want, all mixed in with soil, grunts and the steady work of hands that care.
How can I pretend that it’s not in the tension where I face all of the things that get me from here to there?
The hammock is still now as is the rest of our campsite. No one stirs. The still sound of sleep is a hush. I look to the skies again and see the stars have moved. The heavens are unstoppable. Always growing. Always expanding. This quiets my soul. The earth is groaning, the heavens dancing, and I am caught up still in the between. Perhaps this is where we balance on this earth. In this tension. Always knowing we are in process, our stories in process; always pushing against gravity and reaching for stars.
I am slung low in the tension, and my thoughts are everywhere. I think of Jacob who wrestled with an angel. I think of gardens to tend with my hands and in my heart. I think of Leah, the one who Jacob rejected. The one who was overlooked for Rachel. Leah, the woman who bore Judah, who carried the line of Jesus. I wonder if she ever felt caught between the tension. The rejection of man. The promise of God. Knowing she somehow fit in the in-between, but unsure if God remembered her when the pulling against roots and push toward promise was too much. I think of the Gospel, this constant work in my heart to change and redeem, and yet simultaneously set me at ease and in peace.
I am caught in the tension and I cannot pretend that something isn’t happening here.
I am almost asleep, I think to myself. The stars are blurry, the forest is silent, and I feel morning is only a few hours away. I have found in tension, when you’re strung up above the things that hold you down, and below the things that wildly hint of what is to come, the best thing to do is wait.
The things He has started, He will finish.