When God loosens the soil of our lives

Barb Mann writes of her "thinning year" in this morning's Fruit of the Vine: "I . . . broke my foot, had a rollover car accident with my young son in the car, and my purse was stolen at church." Barb adds that she was in a new job and "under so much stress I couldn't eat without feeling sick." It was a year in which Barb experienced "the soil of my life being loosened by the removal of confidence, security, and comfort."

I wonder how many of us have experienced times in which everything that can go wrong does. I wonder how many of us have experienced a "thinning year." Or years.

Last week, working through old files, I came across a staff photo from 1968. I posted it to our Facebook page. Harlow Ankeny is standing, leaning against the mantel. Dan McCracken, seated on the hearth (second from left), is only a year over half my age in that photo.

I can't help but note how much smaller our current staff is now. And older.

Maybe you've had a similar noticing. Results from the National Congregations Study (2015) show that the median size of a local church declined from 80 people in 1998 to 70 people in 2012, while the average age of its congregants increased.

That doesn't seem like good news. But Barb reminds us that there is still room for hope. During that "thinning year," God taught Barb "that I cannot make everyone like me. He helped me to guard and value my time by saying 'no' more often. . . . God helped me grow more into the person he created me to be."

When God loosens the soil of our lives, it can feel like we're losing ground. Barb suggests that we learn to pray, "God, when life gets disturbed remind me that you are the gardener helping me to grow and thrive."

Eric Muhr