One of my lifelong dreams has been to live somewhere I could have wild berries growing in my yard; not just a few in pots scattered around the patio mind you, but an actual berry patch. This fantasy land in my mind has begun to take root and sprout into reality since we moved to Alaska.
Two summers ago we planted both raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes around our yard. While the blueberries have yet to come close to thriving or bearing fruit, the raspberries settled in and established themselves nicely to the point we could legitimately say we had a small crop last year. Furthering my excitement, several of the bushes began to send out runners and spread through the yard; my bear patch…er, I mean…my berry patch was indeed coming to fruition!
With great excitement and anticipation, I began examining each bush for signs of spring as soon as the snow had melted and weather began to warm a month or so ago. I wasn’t too concerned initially, but after several weeks of seeing nothing but brown sticks where there once were berry bushes, I began to fear my precious fledgling berry patch had become a casualty of a long winter. About the time I was giving up hope, several bushes suddenly came to life! Brown was morphing into green, stalks were turning into stems and leaves. Hope was kindled!
As I began to diligently search each bush for life though, I once again struggled to stay encouraged as it appeared less than half of my bushes had survived the winter. I was tempted to give up on the brown and focus exclusively on the green. In reality, it wasn’t a great loss. I still had the makings of my dream berry patch. Yet, something within me said, don’t give up, keep watering. Faithfully, I continued to water and care for those lifeless plants in the same was those who by now were bursting forth with life. Then, just yesterday, I noticed something on the one bush which looked more like a bush-equivalent from The Walking Dead. There amongst the seeming deadness, was the smallest sign of life. It wasn’t much, just a tiny green sprout, but it was alive! With a renewed energy I got on my hands and knees to check each of the other moribund bushes. To my amazement each “dead” bush was showing signs of unmistakable life. In my rush to judgement and in establishing my own chronology for these plants I came close to uprooting them and casting them aside.
The discovery of life amongst my raspberries reminded me of truth carrying significantly greater consequence. People grow in different ways, at different times, and much differing contexts than I am often willing to accept. It is so easy for me to think I know what is alive, what is dead, what is worthy of casting aside, when the reality is, I don’t. It is God who sees the heart, it is God who springs up life within sinful people, it is God who causes the growth.
The Apostle Paul penned these words in 1st Corinthians 3;5-7,
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
My calling is only to be faithful to water and care for those in my life and to do so for as long as I am able. That is my only responsibility. God loves all people more than I ever can or will. He alone sees their hearts, knows their needs, and establishes their life’s chronological narrative.
Similarly, I am also very tempted to rigidly define what life looks like and judge accordingly. I thought my plants were completely lifeless because I couldn’t see what God was doing in the unseen parts, the roots and within the stems. As I couldn’t see what I defined as life, I judged them as dead. Spiritual life though, works in just the same manner.
Peter writes in 1st Peter 1:23,
“…you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
James keeps with a similar thought when we wrote in James 1:21,
“…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
The life Christ gives at salvation never begins externally. Rather, as with all life, it begins internally, as an implanted seed, and only then bears the evidence of life, bearing fruit externally.
Jesus, forgive me when in my arrogance I think I know what is alive and what is dead. Please continue to remind me to simply be faithful to live and proclaim the truth of your word. Please help me not to give up on people but entrust them and my ministry to them to your sovereign, loving care. Amen.