(Photo credit: Derek Cressman)
My friend and I started a garden this past spring. Our church offered a 20 x 20’ plot of land to its members. Since it’s a missional garden, the church asked the gardeners to give away some of the abundance.
When I asked my friend to share a plot, I admitted I had killed a succulent. Even with this full disclosure, she agreed to take on the project with my hampered help. This new hobby has taught me much about gardening and the process of bearing fruit.
Preparation. In mid-April, we selected and purchased our seeds and spent a morning burying them in the pods. In days, we saw green sprouts poking up. Days turned to weeks and soon we had rows of pods ready to replant, but rain delayed us.
Once the farmer plowed the land, we noticed everyone tilling their plots and adding organic fertilizer, so we did too. Now the soil was ready.
When I sit down to spend time with God, I want my whole being prepared to hear from Him. For me this means setting aside time in the morning before I talk to others. The Bible calls this time “abiding” (John 15:5). As I read, I listen to Him speak to me. His Spirit then helps me understand His Word. When I do this, my heart, mouth and thoughts are prepared for whatever the day brings.
I’ve slipped in this lately as I’ll wake up, look at my cell phone and get hooked. Before I know it, I’m scrolling through Facebook and responding to emails or texts from the previous evening.
I’m still learning to guard this time with God and not rush it.
Perseverance. Because we re-planted our sprouts late, many were “leggy.” Within a week, we uprooted three rows of cucumbers and tomato plants that didn’t make it. The next batch of tomato plants were eaten by potato bugs. At first, I just flicked them off, but the next day an army of pests attacked the plants. A farmer (a gardener I considered more knowledgeable than the average one) told me to pick and squish them.
Finally, our plants grew as did other unwanted weeds and grass. We were surprised how quickly things careened out of control. We had to stay vigilant.
The same is true with following Jesus. A one-hour spiritual high on Sundays can quickly evaporate before one leaves the parking lot. We can forget about God during the week by skipping a day here or there; then find ourselves gritting our teeth and holding on until Sunday.
We need to prioritize this daily quiet time and remember Who we’re meeting with.
As the farmers gave my friend and I valuable advice, it’s important to study under several wise teachers or mentors. Their wisdom and knowledge is crucial when navigating difficult times or passages.
The “weeds and grass” in my life are things like social media, spider solitaire, and HGTV reruns, to name a few. None of these are bad in itself; rather, they steal time I could have spent in the Bible.
As for the potato bugs, we too have an enemy, and he does not want us to spend time with God. Period. We can’t treat this enemy as a benign pest, but one who needs to be obliterated (picked and squished)!
Patience. As we persevered in maintaining the garden, I admit I looked around at the other gardens and compared ours to theirs. Many gardens were filled with vegetables before ours. But as we kept persevering, vegetables formed and flowers budded.
As we steadily follow Jesus, we will see fruit. As in this missional garden, though, we are not to hoard this fruit but to share it. In fact, Jesus commanded us to “Go” and make more disciples (requiring more patience).
One more lesson I learned from gardening: Prayer. Our farmer friend, Leon, told us his wife prayed over his garden. He said she would pray for ours as well. We might be able to grow vegetables without prayer, but in our lives nothing fruitful will happen without it.
Let’s practice the ways of the farmer and prepare our hearts, persevere in reading the Bible, be patient in our abiding, and pray for the harvest. Then we will bear fruit and yield, “some 100, some 60 and some 30 times what was sown” (Matthew 13:22).