So I went home with my seeds in the little zip lock packet that we were given at the end of the church service today- and to be honest I was not thrilled about the idea of having to plant them and try to make them grow, as I know from past experience I completely lack a green thumb. But the challenge had been presented and I always like a challenge… so off I went. At first the little seeds sat on my kitchen counter for a few days in their little packet. They looked so tiny and yet so intimidating b/c I knew the implication they were supposed to represent.
As Pastor Tony stood in the pulpit and announced that we were going to be given seeds to plant and tend to and watch grow- we should keep in mind the representation of the parable of the sower. (Matthew 13:3-8) "What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.) And here I was looking at my little seeds each day sit on the counter and thinking, I really should plant them, I really should get this project started- and then walk by with something else pressing that I needed to get done first… funny how we put things off that way. And amazing how it parallels the spiritual journey all to well that I have encountered in my life.
As Christians, we too are like plants. We should put down our roots, break up through the earth,
spread out our branches, and burst into blossom. Such a thriving condition, however, isn't always
evident in our lives. It's so easy to become bored and listless in the bland routine of our daily activities.
Often we just hang on and merely exist without moving steadily toward maturity and fruitfulness.
The day finally came when I had a few spare moments to plant the little seeds. I chose an ordinary solo cup as the container to start them out in… my mother had given me a cup full of planting soil for this purpose telling me it had minerals and vitamins included to help nourish the seeds and give them a good start. So I pushed my finger down in the middle of the cup of soil and try as I might to get those seeds into the soil they would not come out of the little packet. This should have been my first sign… resistance and fear of leaving what was already comfortable popped into my mind… After a short struggle I managed to get them planted. I felt good, they were secure and I gave the seeds a bit of water, set the solo cup in the window and hoped for the best.
As the days went by I would peek into the cup to see if I could see any growth. To my surprise,
one day I saw little green sprouts with the tiniest leaves! I smiled thinking; well maybe this
wasn’t going to be so hard after all! I knew the basics of growing a plant. They had nourishing
soil, water, sunlight and I even caught myself talking to them every once in a while! So I
continued the same thing for a few days watering when the soil was dry and keeping an ever
so brief eye on the growth of my little seeds. I was excited about my seeds and happy to be
taking care of them, nourishing them and watching them take root and grow. Something new,
new growth, new life… interesting how this parallels the very beginning of a relationship with
Jesus used that kind of imagery in the parable of the sower. The seed is the Word of God, and the soil is our hearts. The "noble and good heart" (Lk. 8:15) receives the Word, retains it, and produces fruit.
I began to notice a day or two later that the little plants were getting really tall but the stems were not very strong. I realized that they did not have enough light, so I moved my little plants to a sunnier place. The only problem with this was my cat. She became very interested in my little plants and I had to move them again. On top of that they still had a lot of water as they were almost floating in the soil… I began to feel bad for my plants as I had somewhat gotten attached to them already. I poked a small hole in the bottom of the cup and drained a bit of the water out.
Looking back this reminds me of how the beginning of a relationship with Christ is new and exciting and we strive to take in as much as we can as fast as we can, only to realize we aren’t going about it the right way- so we adjust and try to incorporate that relationship into every aspect of our lives- only to be challenged and sometimes out right attacked by outsiders or non-Christians and we are beaten down and sometimes we lose our grip and float along in no specific direction at all.
And so as is typical I got involved in the routine of life once again and my little plants were neglected. I passed by one afternoon and noticed that there hadn’t been much change but the soil was pretty dry and flaky, so I watered them quickly without much thought. They looked like they had stunted in growth. I felt bad again… but it was short lived as I moved on to another project that I needed to do.
I think this too is representative of the Christian journey- we fall back into the things we feel most comfortable with, not paying much attention to trying to maintain the relationship we have just begun with Christ. Sure, we are reminded of it often and we try quick fixes to clear our conscience- but it is superficial and our soil dries out even quicker now… and we become stunted and even begin to ignore Christ’s call.
At such times we are at a spiritual standstill and should allow Jesus the "Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2) to warm our hearts with His love. We should plant our roots deep into the Word of God by and tend to them day and night (Psalm 1:2). Then we will be fruitful and our branches will extend outward in an ever-increasing influence and witness. They will be filled with blossoms that reflect the beauty of Gods love.
As life would have it, there came a point where I would not be home for a few days… so my little plant was going to have to “fin for itself” I thought. Then it hit me that I would have someone in the house at least once while I was gone so I asked them if they wouldn’t mind watering my little plant before they left! I thought this was a great idea and didn’t feel so bad knowing someone would tend to it at some point.
Upon my return I was settling back in at home and the little plant was honestly not the first thing on my mind… I had a lot to do- unpack, laundry, get things in order for going back to work, pick up the cat, get some groceries… all the usual things one has to do after vacation when getting back to reality! Then I saw it. The little solo cup in the windowsill and I was almost too scared to look. I got up the courage to investigate and to my demise, my worst fears were true. My little plant had not survived. It had withered and turned brown, bent and broken and most of the little tiny leaves had shriveled up and fallen off. The soil was so dry it had a grey dust on top of it… it was obvious that it had been forgotten and no one tended to it while I was away; and in its meager struggle to survive, there just wasn’t enough nourishment and care and so it had given up.
My heart cracked a bit at the thought of this tiny little living thing that I had so carelessly bustled around and tried half heartedly to fit into my over-hectic lifestyle. I was disappointed and embarrassed at my neglect. And the more I thought about it the more I didn’t want to write this little excerpt from my life. It brought on some harsh realities and parallels, but at the same time, as I am a child of God and have been for a very long time - the learning is never ending, there was a lesson here for me too… and that is why I am writing all of this.
When I sat back and thought of the challenge that was put in front of me, I realized that this- although it sounds small and insignificant- in the big picture really was a life lesson. My tiny little seedlings were much bigger than I gave them credit for and had I only paid closer attention and devoted a bit more time they would have grown strong and healthy and they would have been a proud representation of what care and concern can do, how love can grow and signify so many things in life!
I will not say that my intentions were right from the beginning but after the first signs of success I had great ambition. The ambition manifested into intentions that were hopeful and I found myself excited at the prospect! Then as time went on – life got in the way- as it often does. This is the same in our relationship with Christ. It seems to me that in the beginning we are not sure, we are slow to trust and we doubt ourselves that we will be able to live up to God. We often feel that we have to be perfect to have a relationship with Him. And we are hard on ourselves. Sometimes so much so that rather than set ourselves up for disappointment we don’t even try or we give up too easily.
And sometimes we get up enough nerve to try, something gets us excited about a relationship with Christ and once we start trying, we get excited and our good intentions turn into great ambition and we feel on top of the world! All is well and things are going the way we want them to go and God is good! We are planted! And we are even fed, and nourished and for a while the sunlight is warm and welcoming!
Then one of two things happens, we are either over fed or underfed for whatever reasons. We can end up with too much water and just float along on the surface until we eventually drown trying to keep up or we can end up with not enough water, feeling neglected and forgotten and we look for other ways to nourish that hunger. We often get distracted as well, and we place other things above our own nourishment. Our relationship with the Lord begins to suffer and we find ourselves moving further and further away.
As the Lord would have it and as He is ever present in my life, during all of this I came across a devotion shortly after my recklessness with the little seeds- and there were some questions at the end that really made an impact and helped me understand the lesson I was learning through all of this: Is the soil of your heart resistant to God and His Word, rather than receptive? Are we prepared to receive the seed of God's Word? Or are there hindrances that keep it from growing and bearing fruit? Jesus identified three kinds of thorns that spring up and choke out the seed--"the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things" (Mk. 4:19). Do you trust in your own way rather than in God's? Then it's time to seek the Lord in honest repentance, to sow right actions and attitudes in your life, and to grow His way. Above all, depend on His power rather than your own to make you fruitful. [Daily Bread; 1996]
Because we all fall into this rut in our lives at one time or another- I remember that I am a child of God, but yet a sinner, but also forgiven if I truly ask for repentance. My trust gets stronger each day with God, and I am still learning. I hope I never stop! I know that I am loved and nourished as I was a seed that was planted a long time ago.
If you've grown cold toward God's Word, if it's not firmly established in your life and producing fruit,
it may be that you're too concerned about this world with its riches and distractions.
Tear out those thorns! How much fruit you'll harvest depends on how well you prepare the soil.
Lord, I wish to be soil in which You can plant Your Word with its promise of fruit;
I want to be open to You every day, So what You have planted takes root. Amen.
Written in August 2008