All little miniature beginnings but all “beautiful in their time,” like the dark green August oranges in the court below. The fact that they have got thus far into being is more than a promise. Like all the promises of God they are (given the conditions) an accomplishment begun. “His ‘Yea’ only waits our ‘Amen.'” Diary 1906
I gaze at the picture posted on our daughter’s Facebook wall. Three tow-haired children, toasted brown by the summer sun, freshly scrubbed, hair brushed and clad in brand new clothes – ready for their first day of school. They are sitting at the kitchen table, name holders identifying their place by their new classes: “6th Grader; 4 Grader; 1st Grader. Such an attitude of expectancy. Fresh start. New beginning.
There is something about new beginnings! Evelyn Bence captures the spirit of expectancy in the prologue of her book, New Beginnings: Celebrate the Fresh Starts of Life: “A new beginning. A fresh start. A clean slate. There is something almost irresistible about a new beginning. Whether it’s starting a new job, moving into a new home, enrolling in a new school, or beginning a new relationship, a new venture makes you feel like a child on the first day of school. Armed with a fistful of newly sharpened pencils and an unsoiled notebook tucked under your arm, you stand prepared for the new adventure. Your stomach flutters with anticipation as you face new challenges and new lessons. Lessons of courage and valor, perhaps. Certainly lessons of achievement and failure. But above all else, a new beginning represents hope.”
Hope! There is something about new beginnings that appeals to a universal (if latent) sense of hope. It holds the promise of something more – or different. A new chance. Change. Look at newness in nature: a seed, a bud, a sapling. Consider the same in humankind: a dream, a project, a job, a location. Perhaps, we see it most in a new-born baby – untouched by life yet brimming with possibilities.
I remember holding our third (and last) newborn baby in my arms, listening to the song, “I Am a Promise,” on a Gaither Trio record (yes, record!) given to me by my mother. Perhaps it was the season (Christmas) or maybe hormones (given the recent birth) but I was overcome with emotion as I considered the unknown possibilities in this little bundle of humanity:
“You are a promise
You are a possibility
You are a promise with a capital ‘P’
You are a great big bundle of potentiality. . .
You are a promise to be anything God wants you to be.”
New beginnings signal all the above: possibility. . . promise. . . potentiality. . . This was the sermon the “dark green August oranges” preached to Lilias towards the end of what was arguably the three most difficult years in Algiers. The local government continually sabotaged their ministry through varied and creative forms of oppression severely limiting their programs and reducing the involvement of the Arab people. Lilias’s compromised health forced an extended period of rest away from the rigors of Algiers and, even upon return, months of continuing weakness limited her activities. There were disappointments with the closest of their Arab friends.
Yet, even in the darkest months of unrelenting difficulty – inward and outward – there were rays of hope: “dark green August oranges” holding more than a promise in their new beginnings. First, was an advance in literature: developing story parables firmly set in the context and customs of Algeria as well as a revision of parts of the New Testament into a truly colloquial Arabic.
Then, even more amazingly, came the opportunity to buy an old native house, in the nearby suburb of El Biar, at a sum only slightly greater than the cottage they sought for relief from the summer heat and humidity. Lilias viewed the rambling house crowning the hillside of vineyards and firwood and reveled in the possibilities for the future: a training center, a halfway house for fledgling believers, rallies for Christian workers, guest rooms for weary workers. “It seemed like a fairy tale of dreams suddenly dropped down to earth – yet with a curious sense that it was no dream but a wonderful bit of God’s unfoldings. . . Such visions come of what God might make of it – & the only answer I get when I ask Him what it means is “He Himself knew what He would do.”
“Dark green August oranges” – time alone would fully reveal God’s plan but “the fact that they got thus far into being is more than a promise of what was to come.” Each individual “orange” indicated the promise of work begun and, “like all the promises of God they are (given the conditions) an accomplishment begun.”
Life is growth and change. It is never static. God has purposes and promises for what He intends for our lives. If only we listen. And are patient. We must faithfully tend the “dark green oranges” – not disparaging their size and color – as they are more than a promise of an accomplishment begun.
The key, I believe, is in the rest of the simple song: “And if you listen you’ll hear God’s voice, and if you’re trying He’ll help you make the right choice, and you can be anything God wants you to be. ” And, I might add, “do anything God wants you to do.” When we are attuned to God’s voice, present to His Spirit then, as Lilias writes, “His ‘Yea’ only waits our ‘Amen.'”
What are the “dark green August oranges” in my life? In your life? The beginning of a relationship. . . a new job. . . a move to a new location. . . the start (or restart) of a project or ministry. . . perhaps it is a new approach to an old situation or relationship . . a phase in life. . . the embrace of a dream deferred. . .
“All little miniature beginnings are ‘beautiful in their time,’ like the dark green August oranges. Like all the promises of God they are (given the conditions) an accomplishment begun!”
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Painting: Diary 10 August 1906