This Spring I tried my hand (thumb?) at vegetable gardening for the first time and I think my appreciation of the agrarian metaphors found in scripture went up a notch or two after working more intensely with soils, roots, weeds, pruning, watering and waiting, waiting and waiting some more.
After planting the seeds I went outside and checked on them at least once a day (I felt like I had a newborn again, constantly wanting to just check in and stare at ‘my babies’!), feeling absolutely hopeless that these tiny little things would have the strength and energy and innate biological make-up to pop their little green heads through the top layer of soil.
And I was right, some just never made it. I will never know what happened to those poor thyme, watermelon and sweet pepper seeds.
Now I have a stalk of corn about 8 feet high, some tiny green tomatoes growing, and several other flowering plants, promising to bear edible goodies in the near future. I go out to the garden and can’t believe that those miniscule seeds grew to be such lovely plants.
While the entire process has been enjoyable (and promises to be even more so at the first bite after I harvest!); it was the in-between stages – more than a seed yet not quite a fruitful plant – that I most identified with.
The last few years have been very hard on me in some ways. Joyful, of course, with the births of both my children, plenty of laughs, celebratory occasions and important connections; but hard nonetheless. Amidst some very discouraging ministry seasons, post partum hormones, lack of sleep and endless time-outs (mostly for the kids, some for me:) and runny noses and early mornings and failed ministry strategies and even some broken relationships and not connecting with Jon and, well, I don’t think I need to go on.
During these years there were moments when I felt like a tiny seed, barely hanging on, not quite strong enough to push through the soil to reach sun and sky. Too much water one day, not enough the next – and all those rocks and weeds mentioned in Mark 4.
This year, thankfully, was a different season for me. God blessed me in some much needed ways. I figured some things out (finally. I am on a slow learning curve). Breathing was easier. Everything was easier. And I went from feeling like a struggling little seed on the verge of being washed away, to a little plant. Not yet flowering. No tiny green tomatoes to be seen.
Small, but sturdy and green.
This “small but healthy” theme characterized my ministry on campus, my ministry at home, and my personal spiritual life in Christ and I was encouraged to see growth day by day – thankful to just have my head above ground.
I am always surprised by the different seasons that I go through as a believer, and although there are times where I feel like I have reverted back to a tiny little tomato seed I think my internal metaphor-maker is off a bit as I remember the promises in Psalm 1;
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
Though there were a couple of harder years as described above in my heart and family and work, though there were roots of depression and frustration and exhaustion; the truth is that God sustained me well, not as a helpless seed or even a small, green seedling – but rather as a tall, strong, beautiful tree – because God has made me that way and God is not helpless, and God is not small.
Fruit looks different in different seasons and the work that God is doing in my life can definitely be mysterious, but the promise of life remains.
I can be confident in my identity in Christ, whether my acting roles of mom, wife, minister and friend seem to be going successfully or not.
I can be patient when I feel small.
I can bear fruit through obedience.
I can worship through tears.
I can, during those hard seasons, hang on with perseverance, knowing that even in struggling and surviving and crying and failing, as I worship God with my whole life my leaf will not whither.
I am thankful to God for this past year, when I was able ‘feel’ more competent and fruitful and successful than the previous two, but I am even more thankful to understand that the promise of living water transcends the warm and cold seasons of my life; always flowing, always giving, always saving.