Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead...

Posted by Ryan Foster on

Bees and butterflies are creatures that fascinate me and I seem to be always learning something new.  The honeybee is one of a large colony that works with extreme focus and of one mind for a common goal and under a leader.  The product of the honeybee is sweet and pleasing to the pallet. The butterfly’s beauty has the ability to slow down time and stop people as they rush from point A to point B for a brief second to glance at the colorful spectacle flutter about in a passive manner. This colorful flying insect can effectively separate almost any small child from the comfort of their mother to a quest wandering aimlessly away is if in a trance to nowhere.  I am fascinated by the mysterious process of transformation the butterfly undertakes in private that literally elevates the insect from almost crawling to soaring. Nevertheless, what is most fascinating about the bee and butterfly is their function in the survival of most animals on earth.  

I started gardening a few years ago and enjoy working in the soil of the earth and yielding the fruits of my labor.  The longer I garden the more I learn about all the things that work against my efforts. The condition of the soil, insects, fungus, that vine from our neighbor's yard, chipmunks, raccoons, rabbits, frost, timing, my toddler, rain, overgrowth, sunlight, and if that wasn’t enough lack of bees and butterflies all affect me having zucchini bread.  You see, I can fight off all the negative and cultivate an environment that has all the positive stuff for growth, but can still not have any zucchini or watermelon if the right insect doesn’t pay me a visit. Now I have learned how to pollinate my zucchini myself after googling “why my zucchini plants are broken,” but was struck by the dependency of most fruit and vegetable plants.  How in the world are fruits and vegetables still a thing? Strikes are effective tools of labor unions, but if bees and butterflies could organize, all else would cower in compliance. I mean when I worked for the university in Southern Illinois there was a union that would fine us if we hung a poster on the wall of our office because that was stealing jobs. Do you think I would be able to pollinate my zucchini? How does one sneak behind a bee's back? 

My deranged sense of humor aside, this is a functional system that is in place and that we depend on to help fuel industry and life itself. Existence seems to be a fragile balancing act with hundreds of factors at play to make life possible.  As far back as humans can investigate, bees and butterflies (and maybe other now extinct species) have provided for countless other species and animals by simply making honey and whatever a butterfly does. What if bees simply stopped for a month across the globe, what would be the result?  That is a tangent for another post, but the picture I am painting is one that highlights our lack of control. As I mentioned there are hundreds of other factors that, if altered in our universe, would end life or cause great loss, but somehow we are still here in our fragile balancing act. Furthermore, most of us are confident laws of nature and conditions for life will be in balance tomorrow. In this fragile state, how can we possibly put any weight in our future plans, intentions, and efforts? Still we trail blaze forward with an urgency toward made up goals, quotas, and missions that could easily burn up tomorrow. Many rest their faith in scientific theories and hypotheses that do not effectively account for the existence of bees without flowers or flowers without bees. Is it wise to assume that a blind and mindless process has our best interest? There is an unspoken assumption that with time nature is advancing.  How can we assume nature has this level of intelligence? I don’t assume that in my garden as I force male parts to touch female parts of my zucchini plants. One can make simple observations and see that the vast majority of mutations don’t strengthen or advance but weaken and deteriorate. To counter this fact we have vitamin supplements, immunizations, high carbon levels, and an alarming increase in those considered on “the spectrum.”  

I did not make this post to incite PTSD, stemmed from the lack of control we have. My hope is that people could approach life from the vantage point that has developed in me.  This reality doesn’t scare me, but makes me thankful. It does not hinder me from being productive, leaving me frozen in fear, but motivates me to start businesses, and a blog. Anxiety is such a foreign concept to me that in the rare instance that it even begins to rise up in me, it sends me into an excited weird scientific exploration to measure and deduce its source. I observe it as if I am the understudy in the novel The Giver, so that I can talk to others about it. My secret isn’t religion as some will call it, but a real and time tested relationship with the balancer of the universe. As a kid, I was forced to go to church, Sunday School, and learn about how to live a Christian life.  It seemed like a bunch of rules that I kept getting wrong. Even if I did manage to appear like I had it right, I knew my mind, motives, and acts in darkness were far from it. So first chance I had, I ran hard and fast in the opposite direction and lived “life” as advertised to me from television and through peers. I tried to do everything bigger and better from parties to indulging in the fat of the land. The longer and further I drifted away, the more of “life” I needed to attain the brief moments of satisfaction I got from it all. At the same time, I found out I had a growing feeling of uneasiness, it was like I was uncomfortable in my own skin. This feeling could only be suppressed by more indulgence in “life”and to get the level of satisfaction I achieved yesterday, I needed to dig deeper today.  The darkness I was wandering into had a real pull to it that was like an unquenchable thirst. I never even came up for air enough to ask who had the rope I was clinching to.

One night I am now thankful for, after a regular night of partying hard and hearing last call, I slapped a hundred dollar bill on the bar and said turn this into shots.  I did about six of them in a very short period of time and everyone around me took care of the rest as they looked at me in admiration. I then jumped in my silver Monte Carlo SS and darted out driving the opposite direction on a one-way street. The police promptly pulled me over and after failing a field sobriety test, was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the police car. My car was impounded and I was sent to a holding cell.  I called my then agnostic/atheist girlfriend to bail me out and went home with my ticket. At this time I was in graduate school working towards my MBA as a research assistant in the office of the president of the university and feared losing my stipend and having to leave my studies. It was here that I for the first time in my life pursued God. I did it simply out of religious hope that all that I was told as a kid would somehow be true.  That day I went to a church and it was like my ears and mind had opened up. I felt peace even though my situation didn’t change. I welcomed whatever consequence would fall upon me. I was put on probation, had to pay fines, and had a few other punishments, but none could take the peace I had away. I began to dig into this for the first time in my life to know the source of this peace more. I was given a new set of eyes and saw the trap that I was once in and made me sick to my stomach.  I still lightly indulged a bit to appease my friends, but now that I had these new set of eyes it was proven the more unfruitful and left me sorrowful. Upon graduating, I was never happier to leave a place as I was there. The only thing I would miss in the six years was the church family I gained in the last year.

Since then I have drifted a bit at times, worked 80hrs a week for a stint, went back to school, and even was on the brink of being homeless, but was shown mercy by my brother and his wife. While drifting in complacency and religious routine, I received an earth shaking moment when I and about 100 people witnessed a man fall down dead right in front of us while preaching in a pulpit.  I was the first to run to his side while his wife screamed. I had just completed a basic first aid class, but froze when I saw the situation up close. Luckily, there was a trained nurse in the group who began chest compressions. By the time paramedics arrived, he had no pulse or heartbeat and he was recorded to be without one from then for over 22 minutes (it was more than likely longer).  We had broken out into prayer groups as he was taken away and we were left distraught. Miraculously, they were able to get a pulse back in him at the hospital, but he was in a coma and if he would awaken they were preparing the family for him having brain damage. Eventually he did wake up over 24 hours later to his family and doctors fearfully waiting for the prognosis. He looked up and said, “did I finish the message?” The doctors had no medical/natural/ materialistic explanation for the series of events and declared this a miracle.  This event brought me out of complacency of religious practice and routine to seeking something more. 

I now simply practice trusting the Lord with all my heart, while trying to not rely on my understanding of how things should go, I allow God to have first say in all I do, and see where He leads me (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Sometimes I find myself being still, sometimes I am moving forward at a stellar pace, and other times I get a definite no. I have prayers unanswered and new dreams and visions that rise up within me. Through it all, I find myself trusting more and more in this relationship that has developed.  At the base of the relationship is not simply a faith that God exists. It is a knowing that He is with me and loves me no matter what. I live my life not trying to earn this love, but I live as an expression of it. I know I have everything I need and my new life IN Christ is proof. My peace, joy, hope, and love is my proof.  It is proof to myself, and everyone else's thoughts and opinions are their own problems not mine because I am free. Every day is a chance for growth and that makes it exciting and every shortcoming is met with thanksgiving. Within this relationship, I have found a draw to help and reach other people so that they may know this peace and joy that I now have. I remember the days when I was a slave to the pull of darkness and now I have a new pull.  This time, I know who is on the other end and my cup if filled everyday to overflowing quenching my thirst. Still, I am drawn to look outside myself, to a world clenching to a rope pulling it into a darkness of hopelessness. The one that I abide with tells me to go back into the darkness to those who are lost in the trance I was once in, but this time as a light. My message is, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."(Ephesians 5:14) 

Let's Go!


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