A Time to Plant

14 08 2010

Now that it’s finally stopped raining, I’ve been going for a lot of walks, usually through neighborhoods where I get some really beautiful views of the Puget Sound or at dusk, quick glimpses through windows and screen doors of a thousand different lives.  I stumble over cracked sidewalks and overgrown bushes and duck low hanging trees, and I pass a lot of personal gardens.  I’m not a gardener at all, but this time of year offers a view of magical, colorful creation at its best.  Bright purple cabbage, yellow corn, leafy green lettuce, red tomatoes, yellow squash and a confetti of wildflowers dot my walking paths.

It gets me thinking about growing.

We were made to create.  In the image of our Creator we have been invited to join the repetitive yet spontaneous and endless process of production.  We get so bogged down in the pressure to produce that we forget about the God-nature of it, but it’s true.  We were made to imagine and dream and till the soil until something beautiful sprouts.  With this likeness in our being, in our very function, it’s no wonder that we (particularly in the industrial West) so often skew the balance between work and rest.  To work is in our nature; even if we have a few lazy days (or years!) we still long to see the fruits of our labor.  We grow grumpy and frustrated when our lives don’t seem to make “enough” of a difference in the world, when our work doesn’t seem to ever fix anything or stay the ever-persistent demands of survival.  Even when we’re tired – exhausted – we.  keep.  moving.  Stopping won’t get us anywhere.

Lately, as I walk through my neighborhood, I find myself uncomfortable with the stillness of both the streets and my own soul.  I whine to God that I’m walking alone, that my dearest friends are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, and that I have nothing “more exciting” to do.  But then I see a garden and I’m reminded of how things grow.  We plant for the harvest, but the harvest won’t happen without the tedious, time-consuming tending of the soil.  The crop won’t last long if we don’t take the time to water and dig and watch and wait.  The real growth happens underground.

And so, among the gardens I pray.  I am reminded that I am never alone and that God himself is faithfully tending to my every need and preparing me for a harvest that will last.  Even more, he invites me to create myself with him.  He gives me space to till the soil too.

Too often, because we’re so busy bent over, close to the ground, looking for the fruit to pick, our prayers remain in the present, or in the past that, like a weed we can’t get rid of, crowds out the crops we really want.  We pray for the needs of the day or of the moment – all good prayers and in line with Jesus’ teaching in what is commonly referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer.”  We know someone who is sick, or hurting, or scared, and so we pray.  We feel anxious or angry or alone, and so we pray.  We’re haunted by certain memories or mistakes, and so we pray.  But we get so busy in the pace of the work, that eventually all we seem to be able to do is keep up.

Yet in the moments when the ground is empty, then God invites us to plant, and we get to lift our eyes and look ahead.  We get to pray for the coming harvest that’s still invisible.  We get to pray for future things.  We no longer just have to pray for survival, or for God to “fix” things (even though sometimes there are seasons where that is all we can do), but we get to pray also for God’s creative, proactive presence in our lives and our world.  We get to dream with him what it could look like for his Kingdom to spring up through the earth wherever we’re planted, in giant purple heads of cabbage and in tiny little berries.  We get to pray for crops large and small.

Don’t get too hung up on the harvest.  Every seventh year God asked his people to let the land lie, and to remember that even though they were made to co-create with him, it was imperative that they remember who the first Creator was.  And when they worried about what they would eat that year, he reminded them that he would bless them with everything they needed during the time of rest – with an abundance, actually.

Heed the Creator’s command to rest, and in so doing, pray for the underground growth.  Don’t resist the stillness or the silence or the loneliness you may find yourself in.  It’s the way that we plant and pray for future things, and it matters.  It’s the way that the mustard seed grows.