How's your garden growing these last days of summer? I hope it's doing better than mine.
My two tomato plants are the only vegetables in my garden. There are twelve green, oblong orbs on one plant, promising to mature into nice, red fruit. The other spindly plant, not so much.
It's dry right now and it hasn't rained in a while. Weeds come up every day, threatening to choke the life away. My plants need water. If I am not diligent, the tomatoes will shrivel and die.
My tomatoes remind me of a gardening story Jesus told. I am amazed at how it directly relates to my past year, too:
"Then [Jesus] 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.’" ~ Matthew 13:3-8 (Scripture emphasis is mine)
This parable is talking about how easily faith can be lost. It cautions us to be aware of the ways faith can shrivel and die. Keeping faith watered and nurtured is serious stuff.
It's kind of the same cycle my tomato plants endured, and this is their story:
This spring, a woman (me) planted four tomato plants given to her by her daughter-in-law, an avid gardener. After the woman planted the seedlings in a planter box, some chipmunks came and ate up one of the plants.
The second plant grew fast, but it was scorched by the sun. It died.
The third tomato was stunted by the weeds and produced only one fruit with two gnarled-looking growths.
The fourth plant took root and flourished. It produced twelve tomatoes. End of story.
That is, unless you are me. There's so much more. The four tomato plants are virtually representative of the four seasons in my faith life during the past year. Allow me to explain.
Season 1 (seed on the path): One year ago this month, I was planning my life. But a health diagnosis, much like the birds or chipmunks, snatched my plan and poof! -- my plan was gone. Breast cancer threw me a big curve.
Season 2 (rocky places/scorched land): One night soon after surgery, we had an intruder walk right into our bedroom while we were sleeping. Praise God, we were not harmed, but my faith was scorched by the sheer terror of the event. Ouch!
Season 3 (thorns/choked): As I was recovering, a dear friend went to be with the Lord at age 35 and two young family members were diagnosed with much worse cases of breast cancer than mine. I began to feel dry and questioning. What was God's plan here, anyway? I don't understand.
Season 4 (good soil): It's been almost a year since my diagnosis and God has preserved me. My faith has grown, thanks to the sweet comfort found in Scripture during the past year.
Allegorically speaking, can we further apply this parable?
Without water (the Word), my thoughts could dissolve into the chaos of thinking: What if the cancer had snatched my life and my hope in God? What if the intruder threatens our safety and security again? what if my friend had died without Jesus and my family members weren't tethered to their Savior? What if all the cares of this life had choked out and completely dampened my joy?
Instead of those possibilities conjured up by my sinful mind, the real outcome of the past four seasons has been completely different. This is because we are rescued by the promises of God and the hope they bring.
- God is always with us.
- Jesus died and rose again to save us.
- The Holy Spirit loves us with an everlasting love.
- God sends His holy angels to protect us. No one can harm us.
- God will be with us at the end of life and see us safely home to be with Him in heaven.
Is your faith getting dry? are you growing weary, parched by the sun and life's circumstances? Are you being challenged, season after season? Consider the seed and the sower and trust in God's plan for you. He wants to water your faith and He alone preserves your life until the end.
Thank you, Father, for your sustaining care! Help us to rest in your promises and flourish in your kingdom, no matter what our circumstances may be. We believe, help our unbelief!
In Jesus' name, Amen.