“Is it working?” I am usually asked when I talk about our compost pile.

Today, I walked down with scraps of potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and beets and plopped them onto the side of the pile.

Each time I pause and look at it, really study the pile and think about the numerous trips I’ve taken to it, ritualistically placing my offering to the altar of decomposition, I am amazed that it is working.

With work gloves on my hands and a pitchfork firmly grasped, I began the good work of turning the pile. We don’t have an elaborate compost system yet—it’s just a pile of stuff on the ground that takes up about the same space as the raised bed it sits next to. This means it takes a bit of time and effort to hurl decomposing food scraps and other organic matter to a new place each time the pile needs turned. Not only does the pile move but it allows the hidden to be exposed to air and to be stirred up.

With each stab and throw, I thought about this visual reminder for my life.

What have been the things I have experienced as giving over to death, dying to myself, and have seen it being used to give life to other seeds?

Easily overlooked, the pile can appear to never decrease in volume but stay the same. It isn’t until I recall to memory the vast amount of food scraps, paper, grass clippings, egg shells and more that have gone into it never to return, that I realize it is actually working.

Beneath the surface, it is slowly breaking down particles and making something new.

I can’t rush the process, but I can make it slow down if I’m not attentive to it. Left unturned or neglected, it will grow smelly, stagnant, and useless. And instead of being broken down, the food scraps will begin to rot and attract the unwanted attention of critters.

It is a good reminder for me to look back on the things I’ve laid at the altar of God, not knowing what would come of them and still not seeing all of the fruit they will produce. I may never know what fruit will exist because of my obedience, but I trust it is not in vain.

When I have surrendered idols or dreams or worries or control, I rarely do so with an abundance of faith in that moment. I often approach out of an understanding of obedience and unknown future. I often have to recall the stories of others and of my own former experiences to recall God’s faithfulness through it all. And when I intentionally bring to mind the larger story, I find the faith to proceed.

I trust that the Spirit of God is moving within me to cultivate a sanctified, whole person. I trust that the nudgings towards obedience in areas that I can so easily find excuses not to obey in, will allow roots to grow in deep, rich soil. I trust that the earthly things I can cling to and not want to sacrifice are worth sacrificing—even more so, the sacrifice will free me to depend on the God who supplies my every need.

With each stab and throw, with each drop of sweat, this truth played out in my mind. The transformation of that pile doesn’t take place because I’ve turned it once or twice. In many ways, it takes place when the ritual of coming to the pile to turn it happens as I come to water the plants and pick their fruit. The transformation takes place underneath what I can see and eventually, as I go to turn it again, the desired outcome appears at the bottom. Black, gold dirt that offers rich nutrients for the plants this season and as I prepare to plant for the next.

As I sit here and type away at my computer, I can still smell the remnants of the pile on my hands. I usually wear gloves, pants, boots, and sleeves because it can get messy, but it still seeps in and gets on me, which bothers me none. Just as I take the fragrance of the compost pile with me, so I take with me the fragrant reminder of dying to live.