Friday, May 18, 2018

Time to Tend

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Proverbs 24:27)

A farmer has several things in mind as he is going about his daily chores of life - although I have never officially been a 'farmer', I have had many friends who have helped me understand some of these facts. He needs a plot of ground in order to plant for a harvest. He starts small - a garden is certainly not a farm, but it will yield fruit in time if tended well. It is in tending the garden that we can learn the skills to help us create a "farm". I can tell you for a fact that is tougher than it looks - even small gardens demand a lot of knowledge and attention! You cannot just go down to the local nursery, pick up some seeds, come home, drop them into unprepared soil and expect miraculous growth of beef steak tomatoes, gargantuan zucchini, and a mountain of chili peppers! There is preparation necessary and the crop that is yielded is a direct result of the quality of the preparation.

Accountability is much the same in our lives. It begins with the small stuff - the tiny, well-tended gardens will yield a much bigger harvest. At times, I think we see our 'present state' and think there is just no way we will get to where we dream of being. Discouragement sets in and we languish in our guilt of having tried and failed, or of having not even tried at all. Okay, bear with me here - I'm going to a secular movie to drive home this fact! "What About Bob" is a movie about a man paralyzed by his phobias. He cannot get out of his apartment, cannot face the world because he is a germa-a-phobe. In this movie, his psychiatrist gives him some advice that we need to probably embrace ourselves - take "baby steps". Throughout the movie, you observe Bill Murray taking "baby steps" to deal with his phobia. It is not the best movie in the world, but it illustrates the point. When we want to see results, we have to do SOMETHING about it - even if it means taking tiny, but measurable steps!

When we have the small steps accomplished, we move on. The writer of Proverbs says we plant the field, then build the barn. What a crazy thing it would be to build a barn and have nothing to fill it with! Yet, we often look at our faithfulness in these things we are attempting to 'build into' our lives in just that way. We have compared our "garde" with another believer's "farm" and we don't see the same results, so we get discouraged. That is why Scripture warns us against comparing ourselves with one another. If we want to have a barn, we have to start by planting a garden - not a whole doggone field at one time! It doesn't happen overnight, but eventually we will see the garden become a field and the field a farm. Soon, we have a barn, full of refreshing stuff that will bring life to those who partake of its stores.

You're gardening right now - relying on the fact that a "failed" crop is never really a failure. Even if you don't "tend the garden" each day this week, the soil benefited from being tended as many days as it was! The crop produced may not be as rich as you'd hope to see it, but the soil benefited from being tended! Don't tackle more than you can handle - perhaps you begin with a "flower pot" sized growth opportunity. There is no shame in starting small - baby steps, remember? In time, that well-tended plant will outgrow the pot and then there is the opportunity for the garden! Tend it well, then begin to look at expanding to a field. At the pot level, you use your hands and just fill the pot with soil. At the garden level, you need a trowel to actually begin to turn over the soil. At the field level, you need a plow, because the 'clods' of dirt get bigger, and harder to turn. The work becomes harder and the time involved in producing a crop takes a little longer the more we grow up in Jesus. The barn could still stand a ways off, even for one who is tending their field! Eventually, there is sufficient harvest yielded to require the barn. It is incremental growth that God designed us for! Have fun with your garden! Don't forget to tend it well. The time spent tending is time well-spent. Just sayin!