Of all the lessons and certainties God has made known to me, there is one which seems to stand out above the rest. I do not believe this is because it is the most important, but rather the concept I have the hardest time accepting. Whenever some plan or dream goes awry the Lord reminds me of his sovereignty and instructs me to remember; pain is a necessary and nonnegotiable part of life.
Experiencing pain doesn’t mean that we are doing anything wrong, or that we are being punished—it only means we are alive. I have to repeat that to myself constantly, and I know it is nothing to be ashamed of. Keeping faith afloat is like tending a garden: both need to be watered and fed, cared for and maintained, given ample amounts of sunlight, and most importantly, time and space to grow. Eventually, if we do our part and tend to the garden well, we will reap a bountiful harvest.
When I picture myself as a gardener, I see a blissful, smiling me surrounded by beautiful blooms engulfed in sunbeams with butterflies flying all around. The only problem is this is a storybook fantasy. Real gardening is hard work; it takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication.
I am going to be brutally honest here—all my plants die. Every single occasion in which I try to prove my green thumb, I end up only proving my incompetence. Most of the reasons my plants die are completely carless and avoidable; once I planted a tree that never got a chance to grow as I placed it in the one spot which never received sunlight. On another occasion I sat my rosemary bush outside in the fall to get more direct sunlight… and forgot about it until spring.
My efforts are miserable at best, and I empathize with those who care for their own plants. It also makes me a bit envious of those who are actually able to keep any sort of vegetation alive.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize I was just a plant in this world—that we all are. You and I require the same food, water, time, care, and supplication to grow. From beginning to end, our lives are as fragile as all of the plants I have murdered in the past twenty years. It actually scares me to even think of myself as the gardener of my own life; I would not have lasted through the first winter if that were the case.
So many times, the Scripture uses sowing, plowing, harvesting or another agrarian metaphor to portray a point, and so many times I believed I understood those metaphors. By the hand of God alone I was able to discover just how out of touch I was with the world around me.
We live in a society that does not know where the majority of their food comes from; instead of farming and harvesting, we go to the supermarket or worse—the drive-thru. We do not have to labor for our food in the way every citizen of Israel, Rome, and Greece did in Biblical times. When God told the masses the Parable of the Sower, they could relate on many levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If they did not plant seed, they would not have food to live. If they did not toil in servitude to their crops, they would not reap a harvest. If they grew impatient and walked away, they would not see the fruits of their effort.
Stop for a moment and take a look at the creation surrounding you.
To understand the Lord’s metaphors, I had to gain a knowledge of nature like those had by the Israelites. This may seem very basic, but the only way to plant a seed is to dig a hole.
We have to take an instrument of steel and pierce the ground over and over again, opening it like a fresh wound. To plant a seed in us, God must first open a wound.
Expect to be hurt and cracked open, because it is the only way to plant the seed of life. Take God’s words to heart and recognize that you will not see a harvest overnight. Be patient in your efforts; know that God is not wounding you, he is working you. He is the gardener who waters, feeds, and pulls the weeds.
“Be patient, therefore brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until is received the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:7-9
The Lord speaks through his handiwork: he made the plants and the land, and he uses them as such. If you want to know God, pay attention to the green; pay attention to the world he made.