One of my favorite things to do in the warmer months is gardening. I love to raise our food and watch everyone enjoy the flavor and quality of homegrown vegetables. My family loves eating our crops, but not everyone is a fan of the gardening process itself. So recently, my grandson came to spend a week with me at “the farm”. It’s nice for him to get away from the city, and we always have a great time working around the farm, having conversations over breakfast, star gazing, kite flying and whatever other entertainment we can find.
But on this particular day, I decided to share with him the FUN part of gardening: reaping the harvest. I took him to the garden, and I showed him which plants were beets and how he could distinguish them from the other plants. Then I showed him how to carefully dig around the bottom of the plant to see if the beet underneath was big enough to harvest. If it was, I showed him how to reach down to the base and pull up the big, beautiful, dark red beet.
When he pulled the first one from the ground, his eyes grew wide with excitement. His hands raised it high in the air above his head, and with joy he came running and calling, “Mimi, look, look at this one!” That was it. He was hooked. Over and over again he eagerly went to the garden to find his treasures and bring them to me to be cleaned and made into beautiful canned pickled beets. At supper, he beamed with pride as he told his Papa C about how he harvested the beets and the process we went through for the taste of the spiced, vibrant vegetable on his plate.
I can completely understand why many don’t enjoy gardening. When we moved to our land, it was a coastal Bermuda hay meadow. While it was beautiful and the sandy loam soil was just what I wanted for gardening, Bermuda grass is one of a gardener’s worst nightmares. When we tilled up the soil for my garden spot, the work to sift through the soil and pull out all the Bermuda grass and all the roots was grueling. There were not many volunteers lined up for that back-breaking, sweaty, dirty job . . . especially, when we had to sift through the soil another two times before it was clean enough to put a garden in.
Also, most people do not enjoy the patience required for gardening. While each plant type is different, you could be waiting for one to three months before you get to taste anything out of your garden. Often, it’s a week or two before you even get to see anything to indicate that your garden is more than just dirt, and so patience is definitely part of the process.
Gardening is like having any other kind of living thing under your care in that it requires consistent attention. Remember that grass I talked about removing before we started the garden? Well, no matter how well you clean it out, it’s likely it will be back because you just can’t get everything. Also, we must consistently help our garden with some water or some nutrients to give the soil what it needs to make good plants and vegetables. If you decide you just don’t want to water for a week, or not give the soil the nutrients it needs for an extended period of time, you will likely not have a garden when you come back.
Probably one of the most frustrating things associated with gardening is that often after having put all the work into it and being attentive to watering and nurturing your garden, it can come under attack. Aphids or grasshoppers, or deer, or rabbits or any number of hungry beasts could decide to take over your garden and you are then on the defense trying to protect and rid the garden of these threats.
The kingdom of God is much like this. The process of preparing the soil is done by God himself, but we must test the soil to see when it is ready to receive the seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Once the seed has been planted, we must consistently water and feed that seed with scripture and encouragement while waiting for the person who received that gospel truth to decide for themselves to follow Christ in worship of God.
Many times, there are setbacks and Satan loves to attack in ways to keep that seed from bringing forth faith and to keep that faith from growing and being fruitful. But I can tell you that if, like my grandson, you ever experience the joy of the harvest, after you have endured you will want to do it again and again. When the trajectory of a life is changed forever, when Satan is defeated, when that person gains the power to have victory over sin, when they understand truth what squashes the lies of Satan, and when they are given hope for eternal life and peace with God, the work and pain of gardening in God’s kingdom is well worth the joy of tasting the harvest.