“The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James 5:7-8
Remember when you were little and your science teacher would teach about plant growth and photosynthesis? The teacher would let each student fill up a little plastic cup with soil, a seed, and water, then everyone got to take a cup home and put it in the sun until it grew? I can recall how impatient I was at that time - I’d run into the kitchen every afternoon and stare at the little spot in the dirt where I had buried my seed, hoping for something to happen. Then a few days later, a little green sprout would emerge!
Do you know how Chinese bamboo grows? Some people think bamboo spreads like wildfire - growing quickly and rapidly without any sort of rhyme or reason. But this isn’t quite the case.
Once it is planted, the bamboo plant has to be nurtured, watered and fertilized diligently, or it will die. And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t grow an inch for the first four years after it is planted. FOUR WHOLE YEARS! That’s as long as it takes a freshman to graduate high school. The kind of patience it must take for a bamboo farmer to provide the plant the same kind of care, year after year, without seeing any kind of results… needless to say, I don’t think I’d make a great bamboo farmer.
But then, after all that waiting, something amazing happens. During its fifth year of life, after the bamboo plant has rooted itself deeply into the ground, and it begins to grow with a sort of miraculous speed and fervor. It juts up in the air in strong shoots - in fact, a single stalk of bamboo has more strength than a steel cable of the same thickness!
I think society has taught us to view growth wrongly - we are told by the world that we need to gain as much as we can, as quickly as we can, and put in the least amount of work possible to do it. But in reality, growth (whether it is physical, mental, social, or physical) takes a very long time, and sometimes we don’t see the fruits of our labor for a while.
We yearn for some kind of sign that we are going down the right track, but it seems like we are stuck under the ground. We want to be able to show off our strength, success and beauty like the strong bamboo plants, yet we end up feeling a little worthless when nothing seems to be sprouting up. But God tells us to be patient and press on - like the farmer who patiently waits for his crop grow, we are called to abide in the Lord’s promise and wait through life’s seasons (which are sometimes more fun or comfortable than others).
I urge you this morning to pray for patience in your life. While seasons of dryness or fruitlessness might feel frustrating at the time, they are often the seasons in which God is doing the most work in your heart, growing your roots stronger and deeper behind the scenes.
If you are the bamboo plant, he is the patient farmer, loving you and caring for you diligently each day. Trust in his power, not your own - he has a plan for your growth, and his plan is better than anything you or I could ever imagine.