“A man reaps what he sows.” (NIV Galations 6:7) Paul sounds as if he wants to write a blog about Preserving the Harvest. Plant a carrot, pick a carrot… Plant a tomatoe, make sauce… If he is using an agriculture metaphor, he was probably quiet aware that growing food is just about as complicated as cultivating relationships. Sometimes you plant squash but get swash beetles instead. If the analogy were simple, then kindness should return kindness; Contention should breed contention. But, we all know that bad things happen to the best of people, and rotten people get away with their indiscretions at times. I read more depth into Paul’s comparison.
As I have suggested in my Preserving the Harvest blogs, gardens can provide many rewards. But, gardens also require a lot of work. The soil needs to be cleared of rocks and weeds. Compost needs to be turned into the soil to allow moisture and nutrients to reach the roots. Companion plants should be placed strategically to attract beneficial insects. Destructive insects need to be kept away from the plants, which requires knowing when to use row cover to keep them from laying eggs on the plants and when to pluck and squish the adults.
Relationship, in a similar way, need preparation and nurturing. Lasting friendship develop because you take time to learn about each other, have some laughs, and help each other out when oppressive situations arise. Should competition and conflict begin to afflict the relationship, eradication will take time, effort, and conscious awareness to expel the destructive elements from the relationship.
I am reminded of a couple of conversations separated by over 25 years. When I was in college, a well intending young man sat down next to me in the Quad and began to tell me how he was my friend and wanted to introduce me to Christ. I turned to him and said, “If you were my friend, you would know that I do not need to be introduced to Christ. But, since you came to me with this assumption, you cannot be my friend.” He attempted to sow seeds without preparing the soil. Recently, I had a conversation with a retired minister. We talked about how congregations have changed, with many younger church attendees going from church-to-church seeking entertainment and good feeling, rather than becoming involved in the church membership. When they fall on hard times, they have not established relationships of people who might be able to help them. If they sowed any seeds, they left the garden unattended.
Paul follows up with “…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest…” (6:9). Most of us are impatient, especially about seeing results these days. In my Life Skills groups, clients often want to know whether they can work out this or that relationship issue by next week. When working with clients who have injured tendons and joints, or had a stroke, they want to know if they can be back to x, y, z activity in a month. Dysfunctional behaviors probably took years of practice to develop. The body and brain took years to grow and develop. Healing takes time, preparation, cultivation. The harvest is not on our time schedule.
Similarly, harvesting a garden is not at our convenience. Cool weather crops are ready in Spring and Fall. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, okra, squash, pumpkins, even luffa come ripe in their own seasons. Do not expect to harvest them in the middle of winter. Also, harvesting is not a leisurely activity. Many crops, unless you do carefully spaced plantings, come in en masse. Unless you want to leave a lot of fruit to rot on the vine, be ready to harvest when the crop is ripe.
To complete the metaphor, when harvesting the fruit of the spirit, expect that it will come with some predictability, but not necessarily at our convenience. And, sometimes you can get too much of good thing. That is why we leave baskets of zucchini, anonymously, at friend’s front doors. Paul wrote about reaping the harvest, but he should have added a verse on sharing the harvest.
Thus, friends, we come to end of another year and the of another series of Inspirations. Time to get out those seed catalogues, haul in some manure for the garden, and contemplate what you shall sow in 2012.
dona nobis pacem, Inspiration Seekers