“And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
To say I don’t have much of a green thumb would be the understatement of the century. I sigh over flowers’ beauty from a healthy distance, but come within two feet of them and they seem to immediately wither. I even killed a cactus – who knew that was possible?
After a healthy hiatus from my last slaughter, I decided the time was ripe for a new plant, resolving that this time, I would do it right. I lorded over that poor basil pot night and day, watering it feverishly, frantically moving it around to find sunlight, and poking it in desperation when it refused to sprout. At the time, I thought I was doing everything correctly. Surely the seeds were just defective, right?
Though that was my last foray into the gardening world, I find myself applying those same (misguided) principles to my spiritual growth. We all go through spiritual deserts: those times when fruit is scarce, God seems far away, and our own sin threatens to scorch us to the ground.
Lately I’ve been deep in that desert, dry in my frustration with my own sins and idols: all the things I run to time and time again before I turn to Jesus. Not seeing much growth in my life, I resolve to pull up my bootstraps and try harder, to be better next time, and yet, I fail again.
It’s a vicious and disheartening cycle, one very similar to my over-watering and ferocious care of my poor plants. You see, the harder I tried to force that basil to sprout, the more I was interfering with the growth I so desired. In a similar way, the more self-focused my spiritual development is, the more I lose sight of the way I grow in the first place.
As we see in this passage in Mark, Jesus is our Gardner, the one who plants the seeds, tends them, and eventually reaps the harvest. Here Mark points out the mystery of spiritual growth, that even while the man sleeps, the seed grows.
What a comfort to know that we can rest, for our Gardener is growing and changing us as He sees fit. Even in those desert times, when you can’t see any change and your sinful tendencies seem so overwhelming, God has not forgotten about you or put His glorious plan for you on hold. Philippians promises us that God will carry his good work in you to completion – He’s not going to let you wither like my plants!
Even if His speed is slower than you may like, He is working to change you and make you more like Him. So what do we do in the meantime? We open ourselves up to His work through talking with our Gardner through prayer and reading Scripture, and trust Him to do the rest. He is making you beautiful in His perfect time.