Jack planted cantaloupe seeds in my front yard last April. He did it “because grannies are dying of the corona at the Food Lion.” He said it with all the authority a five-year-old can muster. My grandson Jack’s plan was to protect me from the virus by planting enough produce in my yard that I did not need to visit a grocery store. He also planted lettuce, spring onions, and radishes. Those were the only seed packets he could find in the back of my kitchen cabinet, leftover from the summer before. The tricky part was that Jack planted seeds in random places all over my yard, and then could not remember exactly where everything was planted. Nevermind that the homeowners association guidelines explicitly prohibit the “planting of vegetable garden plots in the front yard.”
And so, while the whole world waited for great big things like “to get back to normal” (whatever that ever was), I waited too. Waited for lettuce and onions and radish plants to spring to life in surprising places around my yard. C.S. Lewis wrote that he was “surprised by joy.” I was surprised by radishes, popping up all over the place as May slid into June. By June, the cantaloupe plants were snaking their way across the soil, consuming large pieces of front yard real estate.
In early summer, after the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders and quarantines had become a familiar part of the rhythm, I ate leafy green salads built from Jack’s lettuce, spring onion, and radish plants.
Some might argue that the Bible is no longer relevant in a twenty-first century world. I admit that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where it gives detailed instructions for “how to live well during a global pandemic.” But the Bible has an awful lot to say about waiting. And what does this time feel like, if not a time of waiting. We are all waiting, awash in a sea of uncertainty.
It is honestly so hard to wrap words around the idea of waiting in the ways people have had to learn to wait since early 2020 when words like “novel coronavirus” and “pandemic” and “vaccines” became a part of daily conversations.
But I can look in the Bible and see how people waited well in challenging circumstances. Abraham, childless and ancient in age, waited for children, who God had promised would become so many in number like “stars in the sky” and the “sand on the seashore.” Noah waited through a flood for a dove to return. Joseph waited in the bottom of a dry cistern, waited in a jail, and waited in a position of tremendous power—all the time waiting for God to restore his family. Rahab waited for two spies, running for their lives, to keep a promise they made for her safety. Unnamed generations of God’s people waited through the great yawn of silence separating the Old and New Testament times. Simeon waited for the “consolation of Israel.” Did he know he was waiting for a baby? But in every one of those Bible stories, one common thread holds true. In the waiting, God was there.
So in July, after the cantaloupe plants had baked endless days in the hot North Carolina sun, Jack and I split open the first cantaloupe. In my mind, that front-yard, pandemic cantaloupe, planted by a grandson who loved me, was the sweetest I’d ever tasted.
The waiting continues. We wait for everyone to get the vaccine. We wait for businesses and schools and churches to reopen. Wendell Berry wrote that “We live the given life, and not the planned.” So I do that—live this given life—while eating cantaloupes in July. And every day I remind myself that God is in the waiting too.