Part 4: The Sowers

Part 4: The Sowers

My fondest memory of the Sunday school that I attended as a child at my grandmother’s church is about a man named Herman Marchbanks (Brother Hermy). He was my Sunday school teacher. He always seemed to take a special interest in my brother, Keith, and me. I remember that he named his first son after us…Stephen Keith Marchbanks.

By a cause that I would not appreciate for almost forty years, Brother Hermy loved me and my brother; and not in a casual and passing sort of way.  He loved us such that he even named his own son after us! I also had a love for Brother Hermy such that I never forgot him. I would reflect back on him, from time to time, throughout my life. I was just a little kid who came to church on the bus, but he was good to me; more than good. Brother Hermy truly loved me in a way I could not understand. He had no reason that I could see to love me the way he did. When I think of Brother Hermy I appreciate the positive impact that I can have on someone, particularly a child, simply by being kind and showing interest. I appreciate that I may not see this positive impact and that it may not even manifest itself for many decades. Brother Hermy helped to teach me this.

Now, many decades later in 2001 I find myself enrolling my children into a Christian school, and these pleasant and lost aromas of my childhood years are suddenly cascading upon me. But they only served to inspire a great conflict within me because, for me, simply allowing myself to acknowledge the idea of God in my thoughts was very new. It was actually a huge “concession” to my self image. It had always seemed easier for me to ignore any idea of a spiritual dimension to life.

I always thought I could face life and its challenges all by myself. I could rationalize a meaning to life that centered on me. Now, in this first decade of the new millennium, as the balance between my professional and family lives became more demanding and complicated, life began to feel like a fast treadmill that I could not get off of and I felt like I was increasingly losing control. I struggled to find some sense of peace and order and could not. I was becoming increasingly stressed and fatigued. It was also becoming apparent to me that I needed help. It is amazing to look back and see that once I admitted this to myself there were people all around me who were ready and willing to reach out to me. As I became open to input from others I began to learn that my ignorance of my spiritual longing was, in and of itself, the greatest barrier to the peace I was looking for.

Acknowledging God in my thoughts put me in brand new waters that were very uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable because I didn’t understand and I was not in control. Now my mission had become to find the truth. I recognized that finding the truth would first require that I become open to the truth. Becoming open to the truth required that I acknowledge that maybe I didn’t know the truth and that maybe something would have to change inside of me if I am to find it. It was also dawning on me that I would not be able to do this by myself (as a lifetime of denial of and hiding from my spirituality has proven).

On August 31, 2004, my oldest daughter, Amanda, left me an envelope that she taped to my car door window. Inside were a letter from Amanda and two pictures that she had drawn and colored with crayons. She was 14 at the time. In the letter she expressed concern about my stress and asked if we could go running together to help me with this. Then she mentioned her own relationship with God and wished this for me saying she knew it could also help. Amanda wrote this in the absence of any knowledge of my own inner struggle about this very thing… (or maybe I’m not giving her enough credit). She finished by asking me if I would go to church with her and how proud she would be if I did. The colored pictures were of her and me running together and a big colored word, “Papa”. This 14 year old young lady was exercising, in a very natural and deliberate way, the very type of leadership that I was aspiring to. I have attended church with Robin and our children most every Sunday since I received this letter from Amanda. My daughter is an amazing person and I see her influence over others growing. Was God talking to me through my own daughter?

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1Cor 3:7)

Read Part 5