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Friday, July 26, 2013

Peanut Lessons

Have you ever considered how peanuts grow?  We get these nicely washed, lightly roasted, sometimes salted peanuts in a bag from our grocer, but I wonder if we realize just how and where these little treasures grow.  Most of us think of fruit as something produced above the surface of the dirt, but peanuts are actually produced "underground".  They turn from flowering plants into underground seed pods without us even noticing the growth going on beneath the surface.  I think this may be similar to the growth we often experience in our own lives.  Stuff springs up on the surface - but the completion of the growth is really accomplished "underground" in our lives. Another thing to consider is the place of fruit is sometimes the darkest place!

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. (Galations 6:7--8 MSG)

Okay, so here's how a peanut grows.  First, the seed pod is planted.  If peanuts are not boiled or roasted, they actually produce a rather green plant within about 30 days of planting.  The peanut is planted in its entirety - pod and all.  So, as the pod breaks down, the seed sends out a taproot.  This taproot in turn sends out other roots which seek certain nutrients from the soil in which they are planted - the main nutrient they seek is nitrogen.  These roots don't look all long and spindly like some do, but are nodular and gnarly. To the untrained eye, you might think these are the start of the fruit, but it is not.  It is just the way the roots growth is produced - it is this "rough" texture of the root which makes it so effective for taking in the nutrients it needs. Roots anchor, but their most important function is in the "feeding" process. Since these roots are "nodular", they have a little more "surface" than other spindly roots.  Maybe this is because the growth which will eventually occur more "underground" really requires the roots to give the pods a place to grow and "implant".

Once the seed breaks the surface with a sign of green growth, the shoot which emerges is kind of a long, stem with leaves, almost floppy in appearance. The long stems soon begin to produce a flower from the base of the leaves.  One thing is important at this stage of growth - pollination.  Many peanut farmers also have relationships with bee keepers - or are bee keepers themselves. The bees assist with the pollination of the flowers.  An flower remaining untouched by the bees or other insects will likely not develop any seed pod. For growth to continue, pollination in necessary.  Some pollination occurs just because of the wind which blows across the pollen producing flower, but others is more purposeful as when the bee moves from one flower to the next, carrying the pollen along with it.  Either method is effective - one puts a little strain on the flower, the other just leaves the flower knowing it has been touched.  Some of God's work in our lives is like the wind - we strain a little at his passing.  Other times, his work is quite gentle, almost "tickling" our senses.  Both are effective!

After pollination occurs, the plant does something unexpected.  The upward growth actually begins to turn back toward the surface of the ground.  The plant drives this pollinated "seed pod" into the ground!  Over these 10 days of growth, the flowering pod will be driven into the soil about a couple inches deep.  There, the pod takes growth.  Two things are necessary for its development - the right temperature for the soil and the right amount of moisture.  Too cold, and the seed pod will not develop.  The importance of planting the seed at the right time to allow the 30 day "above ground" and the 10 day "below ground" growth preparation to occur cannot be overlooked in this discussion.  It takes 40 days to get the flower "peg" into the soil and oriented horizontally.  These 40 days result in the plant being able to produce the growth at the optimal time!  What takes place above the surface, and in the first few days below the surface determine the growth which will ultimately culminate "under the surface".  We often balk at God taking much time to "prepare" us for things we want to see brought to fruition in our lives, but remember this - the peanut only grows when the timing is right!

Somewhere between another 80 to 150 days, the peanuts come to full maturity.  The peanut farmer cannot be assured of his harvest beginning on the 120th day after planting or the 190th day!  That is quite a span of time for the farmer, isn't it?  I think this speaks to us not rushing what God may be doing just beneath the surface in our lives.  The timing will vary, but the harvest cannot be rushed.  Somewhere in the correct span of time, the "crop" will be just right.  Do you know how the farmer knows when to harvest?  He watches the growth above the surface!  When he sees it beginning to yellow and dry up, he knows the pods are ready for harvest.  Why do the plants yellow?  They are no longer needed - the growth is complete!  Sometimes we have a lot of "surface growth" in our lives which we have come to count on as the promise of growth within.  When the growth is ready, the importance of the surface growth doesn't matter so much anymore - it just indicates the "readiness" of the internal growth to be harvested!

So, here is our lesson from the peanut.  Don't discount the growth which is being accomplished below the surface!  Don't rush the growth!  Don't look for fruit where it will never come!  Don't count that all growth produces immediately evident fruit!  Don't forget the need for pollination!  Most importantly - look for the signs of harvest - what is on the surface may only be an indication of what is about to be revealed just below the surface!  Just sayin!