Another analogy has been coming to mind as I’ve thought about my fears and inadequacies at work. It’s garden time, and this year I’ve undertaken planting a garden again. The reason that I have a garden is to get vegetables; its not to have the experience of gardening. I don’t enjoy tilling, weeding, planting, watering, learning about which plants to rotate in, which plants to plant near each other, soil pH, etc. It’s not the process of getting my hands dirty that I love – it’s getting to eat fruit that grew in my own yard.
As I’ve been doing all of these things that I don’t enjoy (planting, tilling, etc.), I have realized that I garden in a hurry. I just want to be done with the boring prep work and get to the fruit.
Well, as I sat in my garden this weekend, I realized that when it comes to ministry, I am often the same way. What I really want is to see fruit in people’s lives, that their hearts are changed, that their actions line up with the Kingdom, that they begin to run after Jesus full throttle. So I’m just gunning for fruit without wanting to wade through the hard work of weeds and rocks and digging and waiting and watering and waiting. Fruit is the goal, but there are things that might need to be done along the way to get us there, and there can be joy in the process.
I think that a lack of fruit (that I can see) makes me fear that I am Harrison Barnes. But I believe that it’s closer to the truth that I am simply an impatient gardener who has forgotten the freedom of Mark 4:26-27. These verses tell the story of a gardener who planted a seed and whether he watched it all day or goes to sleep, it grew in its own time, though he didn’t understand how.
There is freedom in knowing that the results aren’t mine, only the planting. Only God makes a seed grow, and we don’t know how, and that’s good news. And my best cooperation with Him is to follow His directions in preparing the soil, caring for the planting area, and then simply waiting for the Spirit to work.
I believe God has gifted me with skills to be an effective pastor. The trick is putting those skills into His hands, trusting Him to do the work, and not measuring my success by numbers or the speed with which fruit comes. The trick is applying the right answer from yesterday’s blog post, letting the truth of the Gospel infuse and lead my skills. I cannot make anything grow, I cannot make anyone care, and the Kingdom of God is not resting on my shoulders. It’s His to grow, His to build, and I am called to simply offer my all to His use.
I hope that Harrison recovers the belief that he seems to have lost.
I hope that I will believe in the right One and learn how to be a gardener that embraces the process, not just the fruit.