What is the point in all this suffering? I sometimes found myself asking. Surely this wasn’t supposed to happen. Where did I go wrong? Can anything good come out of the mess that is my life? When I was stuck in the middle of it, surrounded by confusion and pain, it didn’t seem to make any sense at all. But little by little, as the broken pieces of my life came together, I saw that out of this mess God was making a masterpiece, worked together with love and care.

     When I was a child I remember walking along the paths of the local sports center. I used to laugh and point at their pitiful bushes lining the walkways. Purchased at the same time as ours, from the same nursery, theirs were small and bare, never growing over two feet tall. Yet our bushes grew huge and plush, with beautiful shades of green and purple. If we did not trim them regularly they would be well over our heads and fully overgrow the walking paths.

Amused at their bewildered gardener, I knew the secret. We had many animals on our little village farm, animals which produced endless amounts of foul smelling ‘muck’. The muck was removed from the pens every day and collected in wicker baskets at the far end of the farm. Then every so often we would have what we called a ‘muck-out’.

     All the baskets were loaded onto a wagon pulled by our stubborn donkey and hauled to a nearby field, where a very large pit served as a compost heap. There it had to be unloaded before returning for another load.  The muck-out was a hard and dirty job, taking many hours of work. The baskets often split open. One time the whole donkey cart tipped over spilling its smelly load. Yet those are fun memories for me, as I enjoyed the rare occasion of being able to help my brothers with the dirty work.

It’s hard to imagine that such gross and messy muck could become the rich, life giving compost which was the secret to our beautiful gardens. Eventually others wanted to purchase our fertilizer, and the local plant nursery would give us free plants in exchange for it.

I look at my life now, as full and vibrant in growth and color as those beautiful bushes of my youth, and I smile again because I know the secret. The pains and hardships have been as abundant as the muck at a muck-out. We wonder how anything good could come from such a mess. Yet give it some time and a change takes place. Smelly muck turns into rich fertilizer, changing the small seedlings of our lives into a plush and beautiful garden.



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