Just Below the Surface

If it means anything to you, I’m an Enneagram 7. Which is essentially a personality test’s way of saying that I’m a little bit reckless, very indulgent, and if you’re ever trying to talk me into something, all you have to do is frame it as an adventure and I’m in (which is precisely how I ended up running a half-marathon without training… but that’s another story for another time).

It’s also a way of saying I’m a sucker for enticing hobbies, which is why you can find blank canvases (I don’t paint), and a crochet hook (I’ve never crocheted anything in my life), and a half-knit sweater (I haven’t actually finished anything in almost a decade) pretty accessible on my craft shelf (which I honestly shouldn’t even have). So it should come as no surprise that when I happened upon the idea of planting a garden, it didn’t take long for the reckless, indulgent, Jill-of-all-trades within me to decide it was a good idea, and that it needed to begin right away.

One particular Sunday in the spring, I wandered around Walmart looking for a way to grow a garden on my back porch. I ended up two aisles down from the fabric, where I found a small wooden crate that perfectly fit the vision of my tiny garden dreams. I grabbed a bag of soil, some lining to fit the crate, and several tiny bags of vegetables and herbs.

Oh, and a last second impulse grab of a bag of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix because it *promised* my plants would grow “twice as big.”

I’m a complete sucker.

I was giddy when I returned home from WalMart, heading straight to the porch with all my supplies in tow. I added the lining to the wooden crate, filled it up with soil (and Miracle-Gro, of course), and began meticulously adding the seeds, making sure the spacing and depth were exactly what the instructions called for. I sprinkled a little extra Miracle-Gro, filled up my water can, and poured it carefully across the newly planted soil.

It only took about an hour before I was walking back to the porch, peering out the sliding glass door at the little box full of soil and freshly planted seeds hoping to see something sprout above the surface. Yes, you read that correctly. One tiny hour after planting the seeds I was looking for growth.

I’m a delusional sucker.

I peeked out the next day, and the next, and the day after that, too. And yet, there was nothing.

Just soil in a crate that looked far less glamorous than my day dreams had lended me to expect. 

I kept watering and hoping and checking several times a day. I should probably be embarrassed to admit that somewhere deep inside I thought I might actually see something in such a short amount of time. But still there was nothing.

At the end of Exodus 2 we find a small, but profound comment on the emotional state of God’s people, the Israelites, who at the time were enslaved in Egypt:

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

Exodus 2:23-25

Notice that we find this narration of their current state after we are introduced to the wickedness of the Egyptians toward the Israelites. It’s after we’re introduced to Moses. It’s after we learn of his Hebrew birth, and miraculous Egyptian upbringing. It’s after we read of his attack on the Egyptian. After we learn of him fleeing to Midian to hideaway.

It’s believed that Moses spent decades in Midian. He worked, took a bride, and had children. This was no short stay, but a significant portion of Mo’s life.

I was checking my tiny crate garden several times a day for weeks, and I was thoroughly disappointed.

“What did I do wrong?”

“Did I not use enough Miracle-Gro???”

“What’s the point if nothing grows?!”

I had all but given up, so I decided not to check for several days. Maybe if I forced myself not to think of it, I could be pleasantly surprised?

You know, it’s in the very next verse in Exodus that we read of Mo’s calling to go back to Egypt and face the new Pharaoh, demanding that he “let God’s people go.” It reads as though the people reached a breaking point, cried out to God, and then God did something about it. And in many ways, that’s true. And that truth is an encouraging one – reminding us that God does indeed see, and listen, and respond.

But I think there is something even more profound. It’s found right there in the final words of Exodus 2.

“God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”

He knew. You see, God didn’t wait for the Israelites to groan and cry out, to cry out and groan. (Did you see both words repeated in the text? So much groaning. So many tears.) He didn’t forget to remember. He didn’t wait to consider them.

He saw and he knew and had already begun the rescue.

How do we know?

We know because of Moses.

Because at the moment the Israelites groaned and cried and cried and groaned, Yahweh God was already on Step 6 of a plan forty years in motion.

Moses had already been born.

Had already been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Had already become impassioned for his native people.

Had already acted for justice, (albeit he went a little overboard).

Had already healed in Midian and was ready to return to Egypt.

And he hasn’t forgotten to remember you. He isn’t waiting to consider you.

After not checking on my garden for several days, I mustered up the courage to open the blinds and look outside.

And sure enough, there was a sprout standing tall three whole inches above the soil.


Where there had been nothing, there was now a glorious something.

And I was reminded, as I was with Moses, that often there is something happening just below the surface.

On the days of my disappointment in seeing nothing, I forgot to consider what must happen in the soil long before anything can happen above it.

When I looked at my pot of soil and saw emptiness, what I didn’t see was a seed breaking underneath. What I didn’t think of were the root hairs coming from the broken seed and growing strong. What I didn’t see where the roots growing down, pushing the seedling up, up, up.

When I thought there was nothing, the most important work was being done. Just below the surface.

To the one who feels overlooked…

To the one who feels forgotten…

To the one with the diagnosis…

The fourth miscarriage…

The discontentment…

The failing marriage…

Take heart. The rescue plan is already set in motion. Yahweh God is already at work just below the surface. The seed has cracked. The roots are taking hold. The sprout is about to break the surface. You can’t see it just yet, but the work has begun. And soon, you’ll see a tiny green sprout burst out of the soil and you’ll wonder how it got there so quickly.

As you groan and cry out and cry out and groan, remember that you are not forgotten. You have not been overlooked. God sees you— and God knows.


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