Not very pretty and honestly a little embarrassing to show something that has been so neglected. Quite often people who have "neglected gardens" are embarrassed or ashamed to go to the church or to people in ministry for help. However, when pride is pushed to the side, great things happen. For me, humbling myself and exposing this neglect will allow me to share a spiritual correlation that applies in many situations. So, I push through...
During the COVID shutdowns in Spring of 2020, I cleared out this flowerbed on the side of my house and planted a garden. We had only lived in the house for two years, and the space is narrow between our house and our neighbors. The flower bed was overgrown, but the space was perfect for a small garden. I cleared out the weeds, prepped the soil, and begin to plant. I watered and tried my best to keep out the determined weeds eventually resulting in me covering the soil with leaves and pine needles in an effort to smother them. The crooked fence was my attempt to keep out the bunnies that initially ravaged my tender seedlings. This process lead me to write: Cultivate: A Journaling Journey Through the Fruits of the Spirit.
I hadn’t been back to the side of the house since I had harvested the last of the vegetables in the fall. When Spring came around this year, I was immersed in writing a book, getting the website developed, and meeting with people for coaching and deliverance sessions not to mention all of my mom and wife responsibilities. I knew that I didn’t have the time I needed to nurture a garden.
One day a couple weeks ago, I was reminiscing about the slow paced life during COVID shutdowns and all the extra time that I had to devote to cultivating a garden. I missed the work put into it, the peace and fulfillment that came from my relationship with my garden, and the joy of the harvest when I could see the tangible efforts of my hard work through the harvest I received. I wandered around to the side of the house curious if anything that I had planted happened to return. Sure enough, I found a few pepper and tomato plants. Despite the odds of no care, no tending, greedy weeds, and hungry animals, a few seeds left behind from my hard work last year returned and claimed a place in the flower bed. Can you spot the two tomato plants?
Of course, this led me to a couple of spiritual comparisons…
1. Good seeds that are planted in our lives carry on into neglected seasons of our life. I believe this is the grace of God. When I saw the good plants that had “made it” despite the odds, I had a desire to want to nurture those plants. I hadn’t watered them at all this year; yet, they are growing. Interestingly, we have had a ton of rain which I know has helped. God took care of what I was neglecting. I hadn’t protected them at all; yet, they made it. They are a reminder of the good garden that I had cultivated. They called to remembrance the goodness of my garden and stirred up in me the desire to garden.
I have two choices moving forward with my garden. I can begin to tend to it and help it flourish, or I can continue to neglect it. If I neglect it and the plants do not bear fruit and scatter more seeds that happen to land in good place (not eaten by animals, burned by the sun...remember the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seeds in Luke 8:4-15?) these plants will eventually disappear from this flowerbed. If the plants do bear fruit and scatter seeds, these new seeds have the potential to multiply out.
I likened this to a person who has been in relationship with Jesus but has wandered away. The seeds of the relationship, the Words of the Lord, are still planted. They may be smothered by neglect, sin, and self-focus, but they are there. The desire to return to that place of intimacy with Him can be stirred up when we recognize a trace of the seeds. However, just like with the garden, the seeds can also be so snuffed out by sin and neglect that it can difficult for us to recognize his presence.
I also likened this to a child that has been neglected. There is a big difference in a child from an abusive or neglected home and one that has grown up in a God-fearing home. By the grace of God, the neglected child still has a chance. The seed of God their creator is buried deep and even if it is the only seed (never been to church, opened a bible, etc.). That one seed can still bear fruit and defy the odds.
2. Sometimes we are called to minister or pour into an area or a person for a season. We may want to journey longer in this place but are pulled away, or maybe, we reach a place where we feel that we can no longer make an impact and the Lord is calling us to move on. Either way, the seeds we planted are still there even if all we can see are the weeds all around. At anytime, those seeds can be activated in the area, person, or situation and begin sprout.
My focus during this season needed to shift onto my work with deliverance and freedom. I am called to release the prisoner and set the captives free...one-on-one and around the world. There is a lot of work to do in the Kingdom of God, and He needs spiritually healthy, surrendered, and unhindered believers that can rise up to their fullest potential to do the work that He is calling them to do. I was called away from gardening for this other work, but I can still see the effects of my past my work in the flower bed.
It reminded me of…
I Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV: 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.”
The NIV sounds more like a garden comparison, but the The Passion Translation emphasizes the ministry aspect more. Each aligns with one of my comparisons here. Here is the TPT:
I Corinthians 3:6-8: I planted the church, and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. This means the one who plants is not anyone special, nor the one who waters, for God is the one who brings the supernatural growth.
I share this to encourage anyone that has spread some seeds but feels like they did not return a harvest to have faith that those seeds are there and that the Lord will send others to water those seeds. Have faith that the Lord will cause supernatural growth.
I share this to encourage those that have worked long and hard, planting and watering during a season but was called away. Maybe now, it looks like your work had no longterm effect or purpose outside of your being present in that area, with that person, or through that situation. Have faith that the seeds of your work will carry on in the ones you worked with and that God will multiply out those seeds. There is a harvest coming. Have faith. You may not get to see the harvest, but it will come.
Even if my natural garden eventually becomes non-existent, it inspired Cultivate: A Journaling Journey Through the Fruits of the Spirit which is already spreading seeds and producing a harvest in the lives of those have received it. A lot of the content is from my gardening experience.
So keep spreading those seeds. Keep having faith and trusting in a harvest. Whatever or whoever you are purposed to impact is worth the effort even if the harvest takes a longtime to manifest.