all the right moves

It pains me to say that on Monday, my son is going to have to walk into his agricultural science class at co-op and turn in a tri-folded project board and some printed up data from a science fair project that yielded exactly no conclusion and no results.

photo 1

It started out so well. We had the idea in mind to determine which type or variety of radish grew best here. We had our controls, and our variables and all of the right conditions (or so we thought) to work our way through a successful experiment.

photo 2 

We took notes. We recorded daily weather conditions. We added water to keep the soil moist when we didn’t have rain. Above ground things looked like they were moving in the right direction. It seemed as if the plants had taken root.

photo 3

We followed the steps. We played by the rules. We did everything we were supposed to do. I am nothing if not a rule follower.

Our radishes were supposed to be ready two weeks ago. And then they were supposed to be ready last week. And now, after a two week grace and extension on the part of my son’s teacher, it’s time to just finish the project and turn in what we have.

photo 4

And do you know what we have?

I’ll tell you what we don’t have.

Radishes.

We have exactly zero radishes.

We have some scraggly roots, some moist soil, some deceptive plant tops and leaves. We have some photos and weather charts. And we will turn in something to his teacher. We will type up our notes and our process and we will show the work.

But no radishes.

No fruit.

Nothing really to show for this months-long commitment to prove our experiment carried any weight.

I’m aggravated. After all, I have been just as invested in this process and project as my son has. I have looked after these doggone radishes every day like they were a new pet. I have cursed under my breath “a plague…on all you radishes,” like an angry Mercutio. I have muttered a few other words under my breath too. I have [ashamedly] even thought about just running down to the Bi-Lo to buy some radishes, rub some dirt on them, and take in with the poster board. I won’t do that, but the thought has crossed my mind.

*****

I’m trying to find the lesson here as I prepare to tell Thomas that we’ve got nada.

I am doing my best to think up a creative or humorous or clever way for him to deliver the science fair project that never blossomed. I’m wondering if a condolence letter to his teacher is in order. Or a funeral for the faulty radish roots. Or maybe we just dig up what we’ve got, stick it in a box, Frankie Heck style and call it a day.

No doubt one of the aims of the science fair project is to familiarize children/students with the scientific method and process. To that end, we have had a modicum of success. But my aim as the teacher of my own children is to use daily moments and events, (and in this particular instance, a botched up science experiment) to enhance their understanding of the work of God in our lives.

As with our radishes, sometimes we can do all the right things and think we know all of the exact answers and plan for all of the innumerable what-ifs in life, only to be left at the end holding a dirty, rooty, apparition aspiration of a vegetable. I can’t tell you the times this very thing has happened in my life where the end result of my work or hopes or dreams or expectations was met with a disappointment. I’ve done what I could only to be left holding an empty hand.

*****

The value of the lesson isn’t always found in the radish or the tangible, literal fruit of our labor. Often, God uses the adventure of the experiment as the breeding ground for our growth.

{Let me say that again.}

The value of the lesson isn’t always found in the radish or the tangible, literal fruit of our labor. Often, God uses the adventure of the experiment as the breeding ground for our growth.

Maybe Christ longs for us to find a means for documenting our struggles and the conditions of our heart along the way? Maybe he desires in us to make notes, to write it down, to observe, internalize and study up on the process rather than have our focus too much upon the product at the end? Sounds a little like sanctification to me.

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.” – C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Wearily, I get too caught up the outcome and too often fail to see the beauty in the operation. I don’t realize that the tools, materials and measurements God is using to fine tune me are often the entire point of the thing.  They are often the very means by which “the cure” begins (and continues) in me.

*****

For your weekend, as my son and I struggle to reconcile a seemingly unsuccessful science fair project, I wonder, perhaps if there’s an experiment of sorts you are living or walking through right now? I wonder if the story God is writing for you has the conclusion you’re predicting? Is your hypothesis way off? Are the results you’re analyzing yielding true to your plans? Is God speaking gently to your heart and promising you a way he can redeem it anyway?

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” {Philippians 1:6}

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