Yesterday, my pastor talked about loving our community, loving those around us, with abandon. Loving as Jesus loves. He talked about how some plant seeds, some water, some even harvest, but it is GOD who causes the growth. We can't make things grow - that's God's job (just ask any farmer!).
When I got home, the rotting husk of Beanie's old pumpkin (from Kinderprep this year), reminded me of a story from a few years ago when we threw our old pumpkins out in front of our house.
I was encouraged to keep loving, keep planting, keep doing the right thing, even when I don't see the results I was hoping for. I hope you'll be encouraged too.
Here's the story:
It was the strangest sight – a lush, green plant growing in the middle of an expanse of bare dirt. I stood there on my front porch and stared at it. Wide leaves, a bright yellow flower, thick, healthy stalks. It was perfect, beautiful, and clearly not a weed, even though it seemed to have sprung up overnight.
The plant wouldn’t have seemed so strange if it weren’t for its surroundings. Around it, for a dozen yards in every direction, there was nothing but bare, dry soil. Not a sprig of grass, not a seedling, not even a stray weed. Nothing but dusty earth and this one perfect plant growing in the center.
Months ago, my husband had graded the area in front of our house in anticipation of doing some landscaping. The landscaping hadn’t happened and the area had been dirt ever since. Until now.
“Look at that.” I called to my eight-year-old daughter, Bethany, as she zoomed past on her bike.
She steered her bike around and stopped in front of me. “What?”’
I pointed to the splotch of green amongst the dusty brown.
Her gaze followed the motion. “Wow. What is that?” She parked her bike and trotted to the edge of the pavement for a better look.
“I don’t know. Should we go see?” I stepped from the porch and made my way across the driveway, through the dirt, and toward the middle of what will someday be my lawn.
Bethany came up behind me.
I leaned over the plant.
She did too. “Well, what is it?”
I studied the flower and leaves. “It looks like a pumpkin plant.”
“But how did it get here?” We didn’t have any other pumpkin plants, and we certainly hadn’t intended to plant any seeds. Then, I remembered. Last Fall, six months ago, we had thrown our old pumpkins out into the yard. Bryan must have ground them up with the tractor when he was grading, then somehow moved one of the seeds out to the middle of the area, many yards away from where the pumpkins had sat. There, it had laid dormant until the Spring. And that’s how we could have a strong, healthy pumpkin plant where we’d never expected anything to grow at all.
As I studied the plant, I realized that sometimes God’s Kingdom works like that too. My actions can plant seeds even when and where I don’t expect. Sometimes, just by doing what’s right, by making smooth places out of rough ones, I can spread seeds of God’s love that will sprout later and turn into new life.
I thought about some things I had done over the past year that didn’t seem to yield any spiritual results - simple acts, like making a job easier for a coworker, smoothing her way in a new task, or helping a neighbor move, or sharing a meal with a friend. Those were times when I didn’t think I was spreading seeds, and I didn’t see any specific growth coming from my actions. But just like the pumpkin plant, seeds may sprout and grow when I don’t expect, where I don’t expect. Maybe my coworker will never acknowledge my help, but someone else in the office will be touched by what was done. Or my neighbor won’t be changed because of the help offered, but a relative of hers may be. The truth is, I don’t know. I can’t always predict where and how new life will spring up. Maybe that’s why Galatians 6:9 (NIV) says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
All God asks is that I continue to do what’s right, continue to make rough ground smoother for others. And even if I don’t see results now, or the person I’m hoping to help seems unresponsive, I shouldn’t give up. It could be that there are a few pumpkin seeds caught in my tractor’s wheels, and as I go about making smooth paths for God, a few seeds will fall out where I don’t expect them and a new plant will grow, flower, and flourish in what was once a bare yard.
And maybe I’ll even get to enjoy an out-of-season pumpkin or two in the process!