Chapter Three: The Parable and Friday Night Pursuits
I read somewhere that when you want to see signs, you’ll see them everywhere. It’s kind of like seeing a hundred white Escalades when you’ve decided that’s the kind of vehicle you want. I wasn’t sure if what I was witnessing were really signs or simply a heightened awareness, but the world seemed, rather suddenly, to be immensely populated with infants, women in various stages of pregnancy, and messages touting the wonderful world of motherhood these days. In every parking lot there was a mini-van with a huge family of stick-figures; on every television program there was a maternity theme. Every week or two a new friend popped up pregnant.
I couldn’t get away from it.
I was making myself sick. I was pretty sure I was due to get my period in a couple of days. That intermittent, dull, crampy feeling had started earlier this morning and lingered, creating in me an irritable, depressed state. A glutton for punishment, I was nonetheless studying maternity clothes on gap.com.
It was less the clothes, cute as they were, than it was the rounded bellies with popped bellybuttons that drew me. I wanted one. Stretch marks, pelvic floor pain, and all.
With a sigh I shut it down and stared into space. The house was quiet. It was Friday…the kids were at the grands, Duane was off fishing. I was alone, and depressed. I shouldn’t be alone. I should be out, seeing a chick flick with a girlfriend or something. I didn’t want to, though! I wanted to mope, and be pathetic.
My eyes started to burn, so I squeezed them closed and allowed a few tears to leak from the corners. Pathetic. “God,” I whispered. “I love you, and I know you love me, but I’m pathetic. I need some encouragement. Amen.”
I kept it short, and after clumsily swiping at my eyes, grabbed for the Bible that was always sitting within reach on the couch or table beside me. Taking a breath, I ran my finger along the seam of pages. Closing my eyes, I held it up and allowed it to fall open.
I opened my eyes.
The Book of Luke, Chapter 13. My eyes scouted around for something that would have significance to me, searching through the various headers on the two pages, and homed in on the word “barren.” “The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree.”
My eyes filled. Barren? That couldn’t be good. I read the passage. 6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’.”
Huh. Cut it down? NO! Leave it alone! Give it a chance! It’ll bear fruit. I promise! My eyes were filling again. Over freaking figs.
Then the gardener replied.
‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ “
Yes! Fist pump. I love that gardener. He’s all about, let’s nourish the fig tree. Let’s make sure it has the proper nutrition. It’s not a waste of your time.
I can hear some of you out there. Wait a minute. Isn’t this parable about more than just a barren fig tree? Doesn’t that fig tree represent the nation of Israel? Sure. When you view the parable through an Apologetic lens, it means significantly more than what it meant to me this evening when I was lost and unhappy and desperate for some encouragement from the Lord. That’s okay, though.
I don’t think there’s any getting past the fact that I randomly let my Bible fall open wherever it would and allowed God to speak to me through whatever would be on whatever page. It’s amazing, incredible fact that He did exactly that with a perfect parable that comforted and encouraged me. It wasn’t that it meant anything different from its actual interpretation—after all, hadn’t I, as an English teacher, had that “discussion” with my students countless times?
Student 1: (Insistently.) “Well, I really think that this poem is just about a red wagon. The author thought it was pretty and wrote a cute verse about it to express that.”
Student 2: “But I really see strains of child abuse in it! You know, the kid had a red wagon but his parents took it away and he was scarred forever?”
Student 3: “Oh. I didn’t get that. I thought it was about existentialism.”
Me: “Okay! Everybody stop! The author himself revealed, in an interview, that this poem was written to convey something altogether different.”
Student 1: “But can’t we just interpret it any way that we want to?”
Me: “No! We have to respect the author’s intention when we read and interpret poetry and literature…”
So the parable meant one thing, clearly. Nothing else. The emotion it evoked in me was a unique experience, however. The next day, I approached my husband with my experience.
Up to this point, we had been at an impasse. We stood on opposite sides of a wide, heat-cracked canyon, backs stubbornly facing one another. At the bottom of the canyon, miles beneath us, there was a little trickle of cool water. At its best the space between us was merely impassive; at its worst it was outright hostile. It was covered over with the occasional snide comment, followed by days of silence. It was not what we wanted, not what we had signed up for, and it was behavior like this that had finally led me to decide upon my graceless, “you win.”
Until “Susannah,” that is.
I had always wondered how God could be speaking to me in one way, and my husband in an entirely different way. How could he answer my prayer with “yes…have faith,” and answer Duane’s with “no more kids for you guys”? Were we really both praying with open hearts, and open minds? We had prayed together…perhaps we really just needed to keep doing so. This though…this had to be a game changer. Duane was a man of faith, as much as I was a woman of faith. He couldn’t deny the veracity of my experience, even when it competed with his own desires.
So I told him about the parable. And he listened.
And he said fine.
You have your year.