The squealing, screaming cries coming from outside sound like they could be either excitement or terror. As one shriek follows another, I head to the side of the house to find my kids crouched down next to the garden, pointing and yelling.
Our plants have produced visible fruit. The pepper plants are sprouting peppers, the tomato plants are drooping with tomatoes, and the cucumber vine is winding its way through the entire garden. Every day, it seems, there is a new and exciting discovery in the garden.
Not to mention weeds.
Initially, weeding was kind of a simple process. We took a hoe to the dirt between the plants and attacked at the root, turning over the dirt and tossing out the weeds. It was relatively quick and painless.
Now that we’ve had an abundance of rain, the garden is a mass of greenery. I went out to weed recently and discovered how useless my previous methods would be. One stalk of tomato plants had to be carefully lifted off the ground and tucked inside the cage before I could even think about weeding. Many of the weeds were hidden underneath the healthy plant growth. I had to hand pick the weeds lest I damage the good growth.
The cucumber vines had wound themselves around each other, the tomato plants and some weeds. We carefully unwound them while pulling out the weeds in its path. This cucumber plant is going to need more attention, I think, though it is obviously thriving.
The pepper plants will soon be teeming with peppers, and the jalapeno plant already had to be tethered to a stick after a rainstorm knocked it over and nearly killed it. The broken stem has repaired itself but I anchored it again, and tied another leaning pepper plant to a stick as well.
Those were my contributions. Honestly, I can’t take much credit for this garden. We have had rain and sunshine. Someone else started the plants from seed and we planted them. My husband did the initial clearing of the space.
We weed. We water when necessary. We watch them grow. And soon we will reap a harvest.
Jesus talked a lot about plants and farming and growth, and some things haven’t clicked with me until now.
That whole “vine and branches” thing sort of makes sense when you can see the obvious difference between the main plant stem and the branches hanging off of it. The jalapeno plant cracked at the base of the plant. None of the branches were damaged. But if I hadn’t tried to fix the break, the plant itself would have died and our jalapenos wouldn’t continue to grow.
“Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus says, and I’m starting to believe him. If I’m not connected to the main artery of growth, I will shrivel and fade and not reach my full potential.
And there’s other stories in the Bible, about those who plant and those who water and the One who makes things grow. About good soil and rocky soil and the choking weeds that inhibit growth.
Does the growth I’m seeing in my life hide the weeds that are still popping up? (And can I ever lead a weedless existence?) Do I need to look a little deeper to see the weeds?
Have I tried to hack away at the weeds, damaging good fruit and vines along the way, when instead I’ve needed to carefully tend to the unwanted growth, pulling it out by hand?
Can I really take credit for any kind of growth in my life? And can I bring it about in anyone else’s life?
Here’s what I think I can do: I can prepare the ground. I can shelter and tend and nurture the life in my care. I can water when the ground is dry and cracked. I can pick out the weeds that try to steal the energy needed for growth. I can offer support to the cracked and broken when weakness is evident and death is near.
Here’s what I can’t do: I can’t actually make anything or anyone grow. I can’t do it. It’s not in my power.
And that’s totally freeing because it’s not up to me.
Jesus says something else about us bearing much fruit, not that we have to be the ones who produce it. But if we cultivate the right conditions in our lives, fruit will grow and we’ll be amazed.
Like my son running out to the garden shrieking with delight, we’ll point and holler: Look! Look at what God has done!