Sunday, January 22, 2006

Gardening for God—there’s usually more there than meets the eye

“Accumulation little by little is the way to riches.”
Proverbs 13:11b (New Jerusalem Bible)

A few years ago I decided to maximize my garden’s pepper production and did all I knew to achieve that goal. I amended and tilled the soil in the fall so it would be fertile and loose in the spring. I covered it with black plastic so I wouldn’t be held up by wet, cold, soil or low ambient air temperatures. I was ready to plant as early as possible and did so.

But then it was hurry up and wait. Although I did everything right and had good weather, it seemed for weeks like nothing was happening. The plants didn’t appear to grow, and I had no choice but to wait for things to develop at their own pace.

It turns out that I had no reason for concern. Although they were mostly unobservable, things were happening. Most of my plants’ growth during those early weeks was underground, and hence invisible, because they were developing the root systems necessary to produce peppers later on. At the same time, the organic material added to the soil the previous fall was breaking down into useable nutrients, something that couldn’t happen over the winter. Further, because I was checking my plants so often, I didn’t notice the above ground growth that was occurring, growth that would have been apparent if measured less frequently. There was literally more going on than met the eye, and I ended up with a bumper crop.

Serious disciples usually experience the same dynamic. We want to bear maximum fruit for God, and we try to do what we can to bring it forth. We do what we can to prepare ourselves and optimize our circumstances and continually check for growth, yet things seem to poke along with no, or at least not enough (from our perspective), progress.

But although we don’t see it, God is getting preparing for a good crop. He’s helping us grow the spiritual and practical equivalents of roots and arranging things so we’ll have the resources we’ll need for maximum productivity once those roots are grown. Those things usually can’t be seen and we miss the perceptible growth that is occurring because, although it’s significant, it’s mostly too gradual to notice from day to day.

The point is that God moves in His own time and in His own ways, even if we can’t see it. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do all we can to increase our productivity because, although we can’t get ahead of God’s timing, we can impair His plans (for example, my pepper crop would have been smaller without my extra efforts.). But the ultimate truth is that we can never reach our maximum productivity ahead of God’s schedule and without His help.

(Other gardening or soil related images can be found at Gardening For God.
Images about patience/waiting on God were posted October 1, November 21, December 8, 2004 and June 11, 18, and 24, 2005.
Images about the process of growing/maturing in our walk with God were posted October 3a and 17, 2004; May 11, June 11 and 18; July 20, August 21 and 27; and October 3 2005.)