It's such an interested process. First is soil preparation. We all know if the soil is bad (rocky, thorny, etc.) nothing will grow. A spiritual lesson in itself. Then there is the planting. I love the planting- requiring such trust and expectation. Then comes the waiting and watching. And how exciting when the first little sprout bursts from the soil- or when a bud appears- promising fruit in the near future! It always amazes me. A seed, plus water, plus dirt, plus sun equals. . . . . . a tomato!
So the early stages of planting and waiting and watching the growth is fun and invigorating- seeing the results of my labor and the miraculous formula (seed+water+dirt+sun) actually working! I am motivated to get on my hands and knees to remove weeds, to water faithfully, and even to research organic ways to get rid of pesky bugs.
Then something happens. It gets hot. I get bored. I don't know what exactly. But just after the fruit (or vegetables) begin growing- after that first "harvest" (which for me was about 19 and 1/2 green beans), I lose steam. When my peppers come out looking like cherry tomatoes and my eggplant stop growing at far less than full size, I become disgruntled.
So here is my confession...
Right now, there are a few beans, several eggplants, and a lot of little tiny rinky-dink red peppers out there hanging on the vine. Sun-scorched and shriveled, most half-grown and faded, vegetables that were never picked. Left there to rot on the vine. I know, Mama, I should be ashamed. I am.
Well, I was disappointed. Between the hot dry days, my lack of fertilizing, and a couple of storms, it just wasn't the best "production". So I neglected to continue cultivating. There were times I could have revived them. There is even a second batch of beans out there right now. But they, like the peppers, are puny, dry and shriveled. Slap my hand, Mammaw. Please, I deserve it. Do I really lose that much gusto between the planting and the harvesting?
Looking at those vegetables hanging there on the vine, I began to think of the reasons our own fruit- fruits of the Spirit, talents, good works for His glory, are never cultivated, harvested, and shared.
So I'm thinking. . . possible reasons I do not harvest and share my "fruit" (I'll spare you the commentary this time and allow you to draw your own spiritual correlations).
1. It looks so pretty hanging there on the vine- MY vine- for ME to enjoy and look at. It takes a lot of energy to cultivate and grow- "I mean. . . do I really have to pick it? And share it?" I'll just let it stay there and decorate my garden.
2. How do I know it's ready to be picked? I don't trust myself. I don't know that it's even worth picking yet. I'm pretty inexperience at this anyway. What if I pick it and try to give it away and it's not just right yet?
3. What if no one appreciates it or values it as much as I do? I mean, I get pretty excited and can be a little too impressed with myself as I watch it grow. If I share it, I run the risk of it at best not being appreciated and at worst- rejected.
4. Distraction. I'm just too busy- I have other things to do. Things. Things Things. That occupy my mind and time. Sometimes just when it's time for the harvest- to pick and share- I have already moved on to another interest- or another project. (come on Lacy, focus. Finish as strongly as you began).
5. I become lazy. It's not worth the effort anymore. I choose something easier (Kroger) or just do without.
6. If I'm going to share it, I want it to be perfect. If it's not perfect, it's not a good gift.
7. I assume no one will care either way. No one will miss receiving my "fruits".
So these are all the possible reasons I fizzled out- all the reasons we can all lose our focus and vigor in the cultivating and harvesting. I'm sure there are plenty more.
And this is where it gets good. . .
Guess what I just received from a sweet new friend of mine just a few days ago. . .one of the most thoughtful and delightful gifts . . .evidence of her hard work and a true sign of her care and appreciation for me. . .it was a cozy wooden basket heaping full of shiny fresh vegetables! I was so excited! What a blessing. I pictured her planting and watering, picking and packing them. A myriad of colors- green, yellow, red and glossy deep purple. What a wonderful gift!
Ohhh- what had I done with the gifts I had wanted to give? What I had planted, I had not cultivated and what I had watered, I had not harvested.
I arrived at home that day with my basket of juicy ripe vegetables, climbed out of my car and walked right past my little frazzled garden. I walked on in, and much like a child exploring plastic pumpkin candy, I sorted through my goodies. Then, I cleaned, chopped and marinated all of them- squash, zuccini, eggplant, and bell peppers. I tossed them on the grill for a while. . . and boy were they delicious! A reminder. Evidence of cultivation- a reaping of what was sown. A gift given out of love that meant even more to me than what was intended.
Lord, help me produce good fruit. You know what fruit I mean.
And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14