Friday, January 20, 2012

The Family Garden

Growing up, my family always had a huge garden, and every August there was a flurry of excitement and activity in our household. Bushels of produce— tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, potatoes, and even rhubarb—was gathered as it completed its ripening. The canning jars arrived on the counter as the pressure cooker heated up. Soon the cupboards and freezer were full of veggies that would feed us throughout the next year. There was always a sense of fulfillment and gratification as you got to see, feel, and finally eat the product of our garden. Picking the garden was actually fun, as so much work had gone into that garden during the months prior. To be honest, during those growing months, I wasn’t very fond of that garden. Tilling, planting, weeding, and watering were all part on my summer chores. It was tedious, painful, tiring, and boring work. But in a weird way, I think that played a huge part in experiencing the joy of the harvest.

As an adult, I don’t have a garden. The produce we consume comes from the grocery store. It’s always there, whenever we want it. It’s convenient and easy and I like that. I don’t till, weed, or water in order to eat a carrot. Somebody’s done that for me. In a sense, it’s a nice relief… but it’s also too bad. The joy of the harvest has eluded my life a bit. We live in a culture of convenience and ease. I carry a phone with a data plan that gives me access to anything and anyone anytime. But, I still want it to be faster. We have microwave ovens and fast food restaurants that make our meals quick and easy. Yet, I find myself impatiently tapping my foot as I wait for the timer on the microwave to tick down. If the line is too long or the service is slow at the local burger joint, I can become enormously tense and disgusted that my time has been wasted. Ironically, in a culture of convenience and speed, we are growing more and more impatient. We want fast data plans, better fast food service and microwaves that can cook a turkey dinner in two minutes. Perhaps we need a backyard garden as a reminder of the beauty that can result from toil.

Paul understood the image of harvesting crops to illustrate our personal growth and journey with others.

…You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6.7-10 NLT

I wonder sometimes if we project our impatience into our spiritual journey. What if God looks at us as a garden to be planted, watered, weeded, and harvested… over a long period of time? We want instant maturity in our lives and in the lives of people we are relationally investing in. But often our investment is the tedious stage of tilling, planting, and weeding with hope the harvest will come later.

Recently, a friend shared with me two passages of Scripture. The first was Jesus’ first words to his disciples. He said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” In a sense, Jesus was planting seed. The second passage was Jesus’ final words to his disciples. He said, “Go make disciples…” He was sending them because they were mature and ready. But, between those two statements, Jesus spent three years side by side with the Twelve. At times their growth in these three years was tedious, painful, and tiring. But in the end, it produced a great crop of disciple makers who would change the world.

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