I need a gardener. I have joked for years that I’m not a very good gardener, but in 10 years I will be. I have now come to the conclusion that I need someone else to keep my garden for me. Or at least be faithful enough to keep up with it when I don’t. I am not meant to be a lone gardener. Plants’ lives are at stake, for pity’s sake.
I really like gardening. I like watching plants grow from seed. I like watering them when I remember to. I even like weeding. I fully expect that God will have a small weed patch under a summer sky set aside for me in heaven. Along with a lot of flowers. I like those too. I would say that I like the food too, but I’m not actually a very good gardener so the results of my vegetable gardens are never as impressive as in TV commercials and news articles. Which is disappointing and shame inducing.
Because I don’t have money for a gardener, much less plants, I grow most everything from seed. Which sounds impressive until you know how many plants I have killed along the way. My garden is made up of survivors. That’s why I love them. I am not good with high maintenance. Hell, the $6 rose bush I planted last summer as a birthday gift to myself didn’t even make it through its first winter.
This year, I planted a few seeds with my 4 year old. I tried explaining before, during and after that it would take longer than she wanted for them to start growing. She even parroted back to me, “they’re going to take a long time.” By dinnertime she was checking the seeds several times an hour and begging to know why they hadn’t started growing yet. It was taking much longer than she had expected.
Not only did she think the seeds should have sprouted within a few hours, she suggested that we needed to throw them away when they failed to do so. She thought the seeds were bad. She would have thrown them away out of spite if I hadn’t put the plants up where I could keep an eye on them. (There’s no such thing as “where she can’t reach them” with this kid.)
On several occassions, Jesus compares God’s teachings and words to seeds. And compared to a lot of Christians, my 4 year old is a patient, nurturing plant goddess. We want to tell someone that Jesus loves them and have them declare their love for the Lord and their lives changed within 10 minutes of the start of our conversation. We want to tell our kids something once and have that be the final word. Speak one word over someone and have them be healed of years of pain and suffering. Fund one project and see a historically oppressed people flourish. Forgive someone once and never have to do it again.
About the only seed we seem to be willing to wait for a harvest on is money. People will bankrupt themselves sending in seed money year after year to peddlers who promise a harvest is just around the next corner for you. But money isn’t a seed, it’s a tool. You might as well plant your rake and wait for it to grow. But it just shows that we are willing to suffer a great deal for the chance to have a new life.
Real seeds are programmed to sprout at a certain speed. There’s a certain amount of time required for the water to seep into the shell and loosen it. There’s a certain amount of time required for the germ in the middle to hydrate and begin taking in nutrients. The harder, denser and dryer the seed, the longer it will take to open. If you’re like me and occasionally forget to water for a few days in a row, the seed may not open at all.
God words are like seeds. Some of those seeds will sprout quickly and produce fruit in a human life. But it’s a lesson which must be planted and grown with each generation, just like human life or food or wildflowers among the grasses.
Some of them take a bit longer to sprout, but can be passed easily from generation to generation. The lilacs, the vineyards and the rituals of life are like this. These provide much of the beauty, fruit and community which brings joy to life.
Then there are the trees, the grasses and the roses. These are the permanent fixtures of the world, which will remain until something disrupts their lives and forces change. These are the features which outlast the rise and fall of empires and create their own ecosystems that sustain the generations.
And above it all is God. The one in whom we live and move and breathe and have our being. The one who directs our footsteps. The one who rules heaven and earth. And all around us we see the process which is an expression of who He is, playing out. Life begets life as God begets man. Death comes and life carries on regardless. It’s all right there in the seeds.
There are a couple of people in my life who have been walking by faith through darkness for far, far longer than seems reasonable. If you ask people who walked away from religion, they often tell of searching for God and finding nothing. Then I look at human history and think, “it really seems like we should have started to catch on by now.”
And it makes me think that perhaps we are the ones who have planted trees