Laying the groundwork

October 11, 2019

Are you ready to put in the work for a new season of growth?

Peas, especially frozen peas, used to be my least favourite vegetable. I hated the way they stuck to the top of my mouth and wedged in my throat so I couldn’t swallow them.

As a child I had to employ considerable ingenuity to make my parents think I’d eaten the peas, so I could still have dessert. Most of my attempts failed. Stuffing them in my mouth then coughing into a handkerchief: discovered immediately. Hiding them under a strategically placed serviette: laughably easy to detect. I almost succeeded when I stuffed my cheeks with the disgusting things, muttered that I needed to go to the toilet and spat them out. Who knew peas don’t flush away easily? 

Many years later I gained appreciation of these little round legumes when I wanted to start a vegetable garden. I grew them, not because I wanted to eat them, but because I was new to gardening and someone told me they were easy to grow. As I watched these hardy little plants twist their way up the trellis, their pretty white flowers turning into pods, I started to appreciate them. And when I opened one of the first ripened pods to try the peas, I was converted. They didn’t stick to the top of my mouth or get caught in my throat; they were sweet and tender.

My first vegie patch taught me a lot. I learnt that peas straight from the pod were delicious and I experienced the satisfaction of picking your own produce for dinner. I also discovered that growing food takes time, effort and persistence, and my appreciation for farmers has increased immensely.

My little vegetable garden is like a living version of the Bible’s Parable of the Sower (Mark chapter 4, verses 1–20), one of the stories Jesus told. In this story, he uses seeds to represent God’s teachings and the different soil scenarios to illustrate how we respond to it.

Sometimes my seedlings are chewed on by snails; sometimes they are dug up by my cats which appear to mistake the garden for their kitty litter tray. I’ve returned from a weekend away to a wilted collection of plants that only partially revived after frantic watering. I’ve also been sad when a vigorous tomato plant was snapped at its base during a summer storm and, yes, the birds have had a bit of a feast until I netted the area. (That was a good move, because it kept the cats out, too.) But when I’ve cared for the garden I’ve had fantastic yields of vegetables to use and give away to family and friends. 

The seeds sown by the farmer in Jesus’ story also meet a variety of challenges — poor soil, rocks, hungry birds, choking weeds and the hot sun — which cause the seeds to fail. He’s pointing out that there’s a lot in life that can get in the way of us hearing God’s word and living the life he wants for us. Jesus follows the gardening theme by noting how seeds flourish when growing conditions are good. 

Are you ready for a new season of growth? Now is a great time to do a bit of mental weeding, get rid of the rocks and listen to what God has to say.

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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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