The other day I planted tomato plants in a garden that Big Dave made for me last year. I have been attempting to grow things in a garden since 1987...according to some photos I took when I was young, thin and not so bright...but have always gotten too excited and wanted to just plant one of everything in a space too small. Oh well.
I'm a champ at growing basil...and my tomatoes are hit and miss...and peppers have done fairly well. But I've never achieved anything close to what I've seen other people produce with far less effort. I've never let that stop me from going through the ritualistic purchasing of the tomato plants every Spring. But this year, I decided that I would simplify...get down to what it was that I really enjoy the most...and plant that. So, I have six tomato plants - two of them cherry tomatoes - some basil, mint, and for some reason that escapes me now - Italian parsley.
While I was digging in the dirt I was thinking about life...as I often do when I slow down long enough to catch my breath. And I realized the correlation between what I was doing...and what my life has really been about...planting something that I hoped would produce a harvest I'd be proud of somewhere down the road.
I guess all of us do sowing of some kind. If we are parents...we are trying to grow good strong families and are investing heavily in those little people that may not be so little anymore. We put off our needs to make sure that they have what they need and a great deal of what they want. We drive them to practices, cheer from the stands, and hold our breath until they are safely under our roofs at night. We attend concerts that make us question our sanity (mine: Backstreet Boys), we pay tuition payments, forego anything new because there is a prom dress or tux that takes precedence, and we don't really even mind. When we get an attitude, we may remind them of what we are giving up...but even as we speak the words we both know that we would do it regardless of whether we particularly liked them that at point in time or not. All we really want as parents is an acknowlegement from time to time that they know we love them enough to sacrifice for them...and that it matters. Because nothing is worse than believing that you don't matter to your child...except thinking that you don't matter to God.
Other times we sow time and energy into the lives of friends. Some are going through a tough spell, and others are just wonderful people with which we enjoy sharing experiences and laughter. We also sow our time into our work...be it at a job, at home, or in a volunteer capacity. We stand outside a clinic with a sign and a prayer on our lips. We cover a shift for a coworker who wants to go to a soccer game. We spend extra time at the nursing home or with a patient. We help a young mother walk a colicky baby so that she can have a few minutes to step outside and feel the breeze on her face in the quiet night.
Most of us focus on the sowing of ourselves without a whole lot of regard for the reaping. We expect that our investment will mature our children into strong, godly adults and other people into lifelong friends. We don't really know what the plan is...we just do what we are called to do.
I like to think of this as my mission field. I'm not perfect, but the people that He has brought into my life are the people that I am intended to impact. Likewise, any person who has come into your path in life is YOUR mission field.
Although you may be called to the ministry or to Africa or China...chances are...you're supposed to do your work where God planted you. You are to try to make a difference with the people that you know but only as you are called to do so. If you aren't called...it isn't your assignment. My friends know that I am not always great about keeping in touch, but that I value their friendships. I don't do hospitals, and I am not much help with people who are in love with their problem or who expect me to follow an invisible script. My mercy quotient is low...but my justice quotient is high.
In my experience, I have found that there are people who get the whole equation of sowing and reaping confused. They believe that because they invested in someone...that they deserve a return. Normally, this return is on their terms and is to be in a way of their choosing. To not decode the hidden message that surely you should have known means that they will no longer be your friend. Sad, but true. Other people believe that any person with a kind heart and a strong shoulder is supposed to take on their every burden as their own. We are not necessarily called to do that either. And then there are those who never sow a thing in the lives of anyone...but they will suck the life out of anyone who comes close enough like some giant emotional tick.
So, as I look forward with anticipation to an excellent tomato sandwich sometime this summer, I'm also thinking about where I am sowing my time, effort and energy. I'd love to have a harvest of beautiful friendships and lives touched in a positive way some day. But just as I am not responsible for all of the conditions that will hopefully make my tomatoes grow...God provides the sun and rain...I will assume that He will provide me with the opportunities to serve the mission field that is uniquely mine for a harvest that will one day truly matter. At least that's my hope tonight.
Each of us has an opportunity to plant our lives into good soil. Sometimes there is a drought...and other times frost will wreck the crop. We just have to nuture those whom we have invested in...and pray that they will be all that He called them to be. And if we are in the opposite position...in the reaping stage...may we be happy knowing that He was honored by those little seeds of faith, time, love, and energy we planted.