A relationship requires cultivation. In the simplest terms, cultivation involves the things within a relationship which will allow them to grow. Without cultivation, relationships wither and die. Too many times we look back over relationships gone astray and wonder where we went wrong. It may be as simple as looking at the things we used and did to keep it alive! A farmer has a vast array of tools in his shed he pulls out at various times of the year to complete the various tasks of plowing, tilling, weeding, seeding, and harvesting the fields. Leave out any of these tools (and I am sure there are probably others, like the fertilizer tool) and the growth will be stunted, or even worse, non-existent. How silly would it be for the farmer just to decide one day that he was going to go up and down the road with his farm tools, just arbitrarily working on everyone else's fields while neglecting his own? Well, it would be very silly! Yet, I have to wonder just how many times we focus more on the fields of others and neglect our own in the process?
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong. (Romans 14:22-23 MSG)
The most important relationship we can focus on is the one with Christ. Once we get that one well-cultivated, the other relationships we have all seem to take on a different light. We seem to be less concerned with the things which might have given us a little strife in our life before - because our focus changes from what we need to fix in the other guy to what we need Christ to fix in us! That is what getting Christ at the center of our relationships does - it gets us focused on our own fields and a little less concerned about the other guy's.
When we use all the tools God gives us for cultivating our relationship with him, we are most fortunate. He gives us his Word because he knows we need to see and hear things over-and-over again until we finally "get it". The written Word lets us get frequent exposure to the same truths, but when the season is right, the truths come alive in ways we never imagined. It doesn't mean we don't use this "tool" once in a while, but with consistency. We need the truth to continue to turn the soil of our hearts - eventually bringing the right consistency to yield the beauty of a harvest in season.
He gives us the Holy Spirit because he knows we need expert guidance on how to plant, where to plant, when to plant, and what to plant. He even helps us understand why we plant. It is the Holy Spirit who functions as the "inspector" of our lives - much like the local farm bureau might send out an inspector to a farm to ensure the crops are free of damaging bugs, blighting molds or mildews, etc. The Holy Spirit is quick to identify hazards to our growth - encouraging us to take action to avoid any loss. We cannot function without this type of guidance and oversight.
He also gives us various tools which help to break down fallow ground, uproot pesky weeds encroaching on the emerging growth, and bring nourishing minerals to hungry soil. We might call this the "friend toolbox" because it is in the various relationships we have with one another that much of the "work" of tending our "heart soil" is actually done. It may not be that one who turns the soil, or the one who speaks life into it with nourishing words of encouragement, but the combination of our "friend tools" which eventually ensure the growth we so desperately need. To neglect even one is to invite deficient or inconsistent growth.
I began by describing the farmer who tills the soil of his neighbors without paying any attention to his own. At the end of the season, he will have nothing in his silos! Why? He has been too busy "meddling" in the fields of his neighbors and neglected his own. Considering this, let's establish some "rules" by which we realize growth in our lives. First, we have to cultivate our relationship with Christ - above all. This isn't accomplished when we are in someone else's fields all the time! We need time and attention directed toward our own - then we are better able to assist another with theirs.
Second, we have to allow oversight and expertise in our lives. If we neglect what we can learn from the frequent "passing" of truth through our lives, we allow ground to go fallow. Fallow ground is unseeded - it has only the potential to bring forth a harvest of weeds. There is no purposeful seeding - so the animals and birds of the air will drop whatever seeds they carry, leading to innumerable things we might not have wanted to deal with! We need purposeful seeding - for cultivated soil is prepared for the purpose of seeding. Yet, there are seasons of seeding and seasons of "rest" for the soil of our hearts. Both are necessary - both are best understood when we learn from the one who can provide oversight and direction for each - the Holy Spirit.
Third, we need the frequency of relating to one another. Why? I think it is because God knew we'd best understand where growth could begin when we have the opportunity to see how growth began in the life of another. We learn by example. Much of my gardening ability is not my own - I learned it from others. We need to see God "in a bod" to help us understand the potential of what he can do when we allow him to do it in us. So, he gives us the "friend tools" to assist us in seeing how he worked out the consistency in the life of another so we won't be discouraged when we don't see the consistency in our own lives. In fact, if we allow them, our "friend tools" will encourage us toward consistency - allowing all the tools to do their work, in the right season, in order to bring forth an awesome harvest in season. Just sayin!