Mine is full and overflowing. It's loaded and spilling out with all my ugly things. Fear and anxiety and sickness and death. With exhaustion and complaint and depletion and desire. This winter and frigid weather and the cycles of life. But mostly, it's full of busyness. It's heavy with that.
I've carried it around, empty, for a while, wrapped my arms around it and stumbled with it, put it over my wrists to swing on occasion, held it down near the ground too. All while allowing the burdens on my back to multiply. Because I've really not understood how to use that bucket properly. Until now.
Only now that I've gone the miles with it getting in the way do I realize it's been there for me to fill for pitching. To stuff to the top and tramp down on, making room for more, like a trash compactor, seeing how much more can go.
The story of The Bucket is one you may have heard and one that I'd forgotten. As it goes, you take every care, each bit of trouble, and mindfully place it all an imaginary bucket. Then, you turn The Bucket over to God. You let The Bucket full of worries and pain go knowing God will pitch all the slop inside for you.
Seems a little syrupy if you ask me.
But then I think a little further on it. Could I do it, hand all my difficulties over that way?
Would it work?
First of all, I'd need the right bucket, just right for me. It couldn't be a flimsy but trendy aluminum garden variety for sale at Target--the sort for displaying pretty flowers or greenery. It couldn't be a durable plastic deal for all-purpose cleaning, the kind for carrying foamy liquids or chemical solutions, or a malleable, colorful one for filling with sand at the seashore--one that would surely come with a pretty scalloped handle. Neither could it be a flimsy little tote bag easily stained or wrinkled, the kind that liquids would leak through.
No, mine would need to be an old wooden bucket, banded in iron and rusty in places. Sturdy enough to hold all I have and weathered enough to demonstrate constant use out in all kinds of weather.
It would need to be hearty enough to be packed to capacity, dense and hefty.
So, once I get the right bucket in mind, I give it a shot. I thoughtfully put my concerns inside, one by one. Throw them in, actually.
There are plenty. And I keep finding more. Each time I think about something that needs to be done or that I'm not able to get to adequately, I remember the bucket. Each time I'm stressed and rattled and afraid, in it goes.
I have to make a conscious effort to make this happen. It takes work! Regularly.
In goes the sleep I'm not getting, the time I don't have, the mountain of work I haven't gotten to. Mandatory meetings for one kid's upcoming graduation, swim team practice every night for another, the piano lessons we're always late for. The chores that must be done, the commitments I've made.
In other words, the countless ways I feel I overwhelmed. All of the time.
All of them in the bucket.
My six-week-old grandson's hospital stay, the coughs and colds that have settled in for other family members. Animals that are cold and dying, the winter that won't go away. The frozen water and the icy roads. The piercing winds and the death. The never-ending need to care for it all.
In other words, all the ways I feel defeat. Much too often.
In the bucket.
The peace I am waiting for. The silence I need. The sun I miss. The moments with God I absolutely crave.
In other words, all the ways I feel deprived.
Every. Single. Day.
In. The. Bucket.
And I feel better turning them over. Until I walk out to the north pasture and find another one of our goats dead just outside of his hut in the snow. It's 11 degrees and more snow is on the way, a half-foot they say, with strong, blustery winds enough to rattle the house and temperatures expected to fall below zero.
Keeping all in my care warm enough for survival isn't the half of it. Everyone needs water and the spigot next to the mostly frozen troughs in our south pasture isn't working. There is only one heating unit functioning, one trough for unfrozen water, and that one hasn't a drop left. Getting water to the goats there will mean filling buckets in earnest and walking across the yard for deposit, a laborious task that will take more time than I am willing to give and certainly more than I have available.
My husband is traveling on business.
I want to sit down in the snow and cry.
Then it occurs to me to slip that that concern in the bucket I'm giving God too. I haven't seen any results yet, but I feel better knowing I can put it in my own proverbial bucket.
Once that's taken care of, I walk out to the yard with a real bucket--a tall orange painter's one with a Home Depot logo. I fill it at the nearest working water source and begin to calculate the number of trips back and forth to the pasture troughs I'll need to make with it when a voice tells me to try the working spigot closest to the gate again. It hasn't been operational in months, and I've occasionally tested it with no success, but the voice insists, telling me to pray. "Okay," I respond under my breath. Nothing ventured, nothing gained--am I right?
Except that I might be even more disappointed when it doesn't work like I'd hoped it would.
But instead of doubting, I shrug and say, "God, I know you can." And then I lift the handle and hear a bubbling noise come up from the earth as water begins to pour out for the first time since last fall. I turn it off, hook up the hose, and begin to fill those troughs, shaking my head in wonder all the while, laughing when recalling all the snow I'd been scooping up to put inside that orange bucket for dumping into the one trough that would cause it to melt.
Now, two things become clearer to me. First, God had given me snow. I'd been able to scoop it up right outside the fence and place it in the trough for melting. God had been looking out for me before I'd reached for any bucket! That snow had become life-giving water!
Second, in my own proverbial bucket, I'd scooped up the problem itself and placed it inside, along with a multitude of others, and given it to God. He'd taken my burdens from off my back and gladly accepted them! He'd dealt with my rubbish and placed my imperfectly perfect bucket deep in a well of live-giving water for me, returning it fresh and clean for my next use.
There are signs of life in the wood that covers that bucket.
It may appear empty, but I am pretty sure it's full of a Holy Spirit.
And filled with spring!