All of the signs are pointing to the fact that springtime is coming in Huntsville, Texas. The weather is entering its most Jekyll-and-Hyde phase, freezing cold one day and then eighty degrees the next. But the most sure sign of spring is the explosion of yellow pine pollen that is hovering over our entire town like a cloud. This happens every year and lasts about three weeks, and during this time everything is covered in a thick layer of yellow dust. It is not very pleasant or attractive, but it means that the piney woods are alive and growing.
It is this time of year that many people are driven outside into their gardens. There is something deep within us that loves to be a part of the growth that happens there, whether it be fruits and vegetables or flowers. It is so satisfying to put in the work and then be able to see or even taste the fruits of your labor.
How interesting that mankind's story begins in a garden. We can read in the book of Genesis that in Eden, the tremendous creativity of God was on display in the flora and fauna of the earth, as was His great heart towards His creation as He stopped each day to admire His handiwork. God loves all that He created, and wants us to be fruitful and to multiply. He has also made everything work together so beautifully that much of what we need to know about spiritual life can be seen in and through the material creation. No wonder Jesus spoke numerous agricultural parables – this is something that so many of us can relate to and understand.
One of the most well-known passages of scripture is Jesus' Parable of the Sower:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” - Matthew 13: 1-9
There is so much to learn from this story. Here are a few thoughts to take from this parable today...
1. We can read all we want to about gardening, and technically be “gardening experts”, but nothing is going to grow until we actually plant some seed. We must take care not to fall into the trap of being Christians who are all knowledge and no action. Many of us have read so many books, have heard so many sermons, and could repeat everything you need to know about walking with God. And yet the statistics prove that so few of us have fruitful lives; so few of us regularly lead people to Jesus. We do often wonder why so many people around us are lost and hurting, and we are concerned about the lack of morality in society, but we do little actual sowing of the seed of the Good News of Jesus. Perhaps it is because we are afraid to try and fail. Or perhaps we lack the faith to believe that something might actually grow if we plant some seed. We have many reasons and excuses not to do it, and when we plant nothing, we get nothing every single time. But the mystery and miracle of it is that when we do plant seeds in the ground, very often something grows!
2. Once the seed sprouts into a tiny plant, it needs daily nourishment and tender care to thrive. It is wonderful and beautiful when a new life is born, when someone is born again. The gardener sees this miracle in the natural when the seeds she planted push up out of the soil into the sunlight. But if you let those little seedlings sprout up in the starter containers and then walk away before you get them into the ground where they can really take off, they are likely doomed to failure. They will be green for just a short time before they wither away and die. And the weeds - where do they come from, and how in the world do they grow so fast? You can pull all the weeds in a certain corner of the plot, and two days later they are back and threatening to choke the plants. All of this is the same in the spiritual - it is not enough just to take someone to a worship service or big event where they hear the gospel and respond. We must take them by the hand and go with them as they learn to really walk with the Lord. We must help them learn how to feed themselves, how to grow, how to thrive, how to deal with the weeds of life, and how to be fruitful themselves. This, of course, takes a lot of time and commitment. We must leave behind our selfish excuses and become willing to sacrifice our time and lives to build the Kingdom.
3. When the seed falls in good soil, a great harvest can take place. I love the generous nature of God. He did not just make a flower or a tree, He made a grand array of types and colors and varieties. And He made them so that when their seeds fall into good soil, the reproduction is thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown! This is true in the spiritual sense as well. When the seed of the Good News of Jesus falls into a ready and receptive heart, that person can be so fruitful and lead many others into the Kingdom. It is true that some hearts are stony or thorny or shallow, but none of those things are scary to a seasoned gardener. It just means some good hard work of getting the soil to a healthy place. Every gardener learns that you have to dig out the rocks, pull out the weeds and thorns, add nutrients to poor soil, and shoo away the birds. Not all soil is good for growing things, but it can almost always be made that way with time and care - and the same is true of the human heart. Some hearts are like the desert, but with someone's time and care and prayer, and with the love of Jesus, that barren heart can turn into a fertile field.
I think there is such a beautiful poignancy to the fact that the amazing story of humanity begins in the Lord’s garden. We too often settle for such a drab and stunted version of life, when all the while God wants us to know and share in His abundant and vibrant reality of fruitfulness. This is a beautiful season to bloom and grow.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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