By Amy H.
I have never been much of a gardener. Even though I grew up on a farm and my father had as green of a thumb as they come, my adult efforts at gardening have had lackluster results. I can grow perennial plants pretty well (because, to be honest, they are hard to kill) and my tomato plants usually do alright. But at the end of each harvest season, I usually decide that my effort was not worth the results and determine to never garden again.
Then springtime comes with blossoms, warm sunshine my face has yearned to feel, and somehow, the garden beds beckon. I did nothing over the winter to prepare them for spring. So I weed, add compost, buy starts, and follow the sun and spacing directions to get them into the soil. Then water and wait. Weed, water, wait, repeat.
As spring came this year, I felt my usual compulsion to garden. But, as some of you probably know, my family has felt God calling us to full-time work in Asia, so I had extra reason to not plant anything. With the coronavirus making it harder to raise support and with travel restrictions in place, it looks less and less like we will make it to Asia this year, but if I plant a garden and then go overseas, I wonder, will anyone take care of my plants? Will they grow vegetables that no one will enjoy? I decided to plant them anyway, and as I was inserting them into the newly composted soil, the Lord spoke to me about how relevant these thoughts are to my missional life.
We often have opportunities to speak of the Lord to those around us — more opportunities than I think we recognize. Each one of us is called to be a part of the spiritual gardening process of those the Lord has placed in our lives. The Bible says that some plant seeds, some water, some harvest. Sometimes, when I plant a seed, I don’t know who will water it, if it will grow, if there will be a harvest. Sometimes, I get to water a seed. And sometimes, I get to be part of the harvest — leading someone to know the Lord — when I was not the one to plant or to water the seed. But no matter the result of our effort to plant and to water seeds, it is not our job to make it grow as we read in I Corinthians 3:5-9:
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
How gracious and merciful is our miraculous God! He calls and allows each one of us to be part of expanding His kingdom, but He does the miracle of growth. We do our part and can trust Him to do His part. It’s not our job to know the readiness of the soil. It might take a thousand seeds planted before the soil is ready to take the seed.
Our part of that preparation is in prayer. We can pray for those in our lives, for their hearts to be ready to receive the Lord, that they would long for the truth and be curious about the gospel. And if we take every opportunity to plant seeds, to intentionally talk about the story the Lord has given to each of us, some of those seeds will take root. We may even have the amazing experience of planting, watering, and harvesting! But it is not our job to worry about the seed once planted and watered. Instead, as Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.”
If you are a gardener, pray as you work. Pray for those God has placed in your life, for the condition of their hearts, for opportunities to plant and to water seeds, for courage and boldness to recognize and to take on those opportunities, and for your trust in the Lord that He loves the lost, He is actively seeking them, and they are worth saving. If you are not one to garden, add a reminder to your calendar, or post a note somewhere in your house to remind you to pray each day.
For me, as I planted my garden, God pressed on my heart how important it is that I continue to plant and to water seeds wherever I am. It doesn’t matter if I am here or in Asia. God’s work continues like the waves lapping on the ocean shore, and I am so grateful to be part of that work.
Amy H., a native Oregonian, will celebrate 18 years of marriage to her husband Mike this August. Their two children, Alex and Aaron, are 14 and 11 years old. Amy’s passions include leading worship, painting, teaching, playing games with her kids, and eating new, delicious food. If you like to receive updates and prayer requests from Amy about the journey she and her family are on as they follow God’s call to work in Asia, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.