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Red and Green

On tonight’s blog Kara talks about the balance between work and trust.

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The red is mine.

The green is Yours.

  So I will plow—

And You produce the fruit.

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I heard this prayer in a sermon once, and it has hovered in my mind ever since, a constant reminder from the Lord regarding a constant struggle for me. According to my pastor, this was a Palestinian plowmen’s prayer at the time of Jesus—it is a brief saying, but one that recognized the work of man in laboring over the “red dirt” (the area of service that God has given us), and the work of God in producing the “green plants” (making our labor fruitful).

 

The idea struck me because this is something that is constantly a battle for me—and, I imagine, for many artists. We have it so firmly in our minds that in order to be fruitful in our calling, that the weight rests on our shoulders to practice and constantly improve ourselves…that in order to reach our goals, it is only a matter of pushing ourselves more, working harder, practicing longer, finding the right teacher, getting the right opportunities. And in great part, this is true. However, I think that many times in accepting our responsibility for “growing our talents,” we forgot God’s part in the process.

 

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This happens to me often, but I especially remember its effect in my last year of undergraduate studies. I was so overwhelmed with responsibilities and the expectations both of myself and of my professors, that I became obsessed with the idea of self-improvement and bringing my desires to fruition, towards seeing my “ideal playing”  become reality. I grew excessive in the number of hours I spent practicing, but more than that, I went into my practicing with the attitude of forcing myself to achieve the results I wanted. Needless to say, I did not achieve those results—though I finished my degree well, I was burned out, and nowhere near where I had hoped to be, pianistically speaking.

 

What I had left out of the equation, and am slowly coming to accept now, was that my success does not rest solely in my efforts. I “plow and sow” as I practice—and do well in working hard, because that is the work I have been given. But the results of that work, the success I so desire, comes from God, in His timing.

 

The red—the Blog 1 photo 1hours of practice, the concentration, the “blood, sweat and tears” that go into creating art—that is ours. But we cannot forget that it is only half of the process. The green—the sudden inspiration, the slow but steady progress, the lesson that makes everything click, the unexpected opportunity, the performance that takes us beyond ourselves and turns us into a mirror reflecting the Divine, the audience members that make the effort to tell us after the performance that they were touched—these are gifts from God, the promised fruit.

 

Red and green. They’re complementary colors—which, of course, means that they complement each other; they look good together. Side by side, each makes the other appear more intense and brilliant. But there’s a funny catch to this ideal pairing of colors—when blended together, their bright hues fade to a murky grey. The power that each has in its respective place diminishes when their roles are combined.

 

So it is with our red and God’s green. We cannot combine them; we cannot base the end result solely upon our own efforts, or it will appear nothing more than a dull and lifeless grey to our tired eyes.  He has given us the red to labor over—the green is His gift. And though often than not, my red field looks like nothing more than dirt to me when I am done with it…God is in the business of turning dirt into Life.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Gal. 6:9

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  1 Cor. 3:7

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:17

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