Dear Pastor’s Wife,
We’re raking leaves a lot around here. You, too? It seems like as soon as I get a pile raked up, our puppy crashes through it and my work is not as finished as I thought. 🙂
The other day as I was raking, my daughter rambled over to our garden. Now, you should know that our garden is long finished in terms of harvesting- except for the fact that when we vacated the soil, our farmer neighbor planted some beautiful collards. Because the collards were safely dwelling under the care of another, I haven’t visited the garden or even looked out my window at it since early August. That’s when the farmer plowed it under and re-tilled it to get the soil ready for the collards.
So imagine my surprise when my Tiny Daughter shouted with glee from the garden, “Mommy! Come see!” I looked up from my newly destroyed pile of leaves, and even before she told me what she was so excited about, I saw them: sunflowers. Blooming.
Wait, what?! I walked over to see what this was all about. And I saw small sunflower plants, less than two feet high, scattered around the garden- a second crop blooming. And loaded with more buds- the promise of flowers to come. Walking down the aisle of the garden, I saw a short row of small corn plants, also a second crop. And- an ear of corn that was tasseling! Another thing I noticed was that the collards were weed free. This is the height of unfairness, I say, considering my weeding saga of summertime. But I digress…
The thing that struck me was that I had not planted this second crop of corn and sunflowers. Whether it be from birds or from seeds that remained and germinated after the soil was turned- this garden was making a another attempt at producing- and it was from what I had planted.
Well, my mind immediately went to the parallels in ministry. The soil is your church. You prepare soil, you plant, you weed, you tend, you feed, you water, and you wait expectantly for a harvest. Some of us reap more than others in our ministries. Sometimes it’s a bad year and we work a lot for not much fruit. Sometimes it’s a bad 5 or 10 years. When our time has ended in that particular area, we leave our garden and go to another one that God has ready for us. We don’t look back at the former garden too much, especially not at first.
Just like the farmer in my case, another pastor comes in and begins to plant in the soil where you worked so hard and long. His plants are beautiful, and it seems the weeds are few. Time goes by. And then-
Sometimes you hear of the death or destruction of some of your plants, or even of the soil itself. But other times you hear of new growth, a blooming where you thought it had ceased. Sure enough, what you planted there is still bringing forth fruit…or maybe, finally bringing forth fruit. For what you do see and hear of, there is much more that will always be hidden.
Your toil in that soil has not gone unnoticed by the Master Gardener- you can be sure of that.
But- yet another strange thing happens during your exit and after you leave that soil and move to new soil. This is called transplanting, and what do you discover but that in your new soil, you have brought some of the old along with you?
When a plant is transplanted, it is always done so with a dirt ball kept around the roots. Never do we shake the roots clean- that would prove fatal to the plants in most cases. Shocking at best. No, we carefully dig up a shovel full of dirt and move it to the new place, forever integrating the old soil with the new, and the new with the old. The old soil is always part of the new place of growth.
It is humanly impossible to separate them.
So, what if those sunflowers and corn aren’t the only thing still growing after I’m finished in the garden? What if YOU and I are still growing- as a result of that old soil?
This rather reminds me of last week’s letter about the value of a permanent marker. But now we are taking it a step further. Not only have we been marked by those people and those places, but we have their lives and that place integrated into the very fabric of our being. When we transplant, we take them with us in the form of eternal lessons and wisdom gained and shaping influences (whether positive or negative- but all for His good and ours, too) that have become a permanent part of us.
Oh friend….when you transplant, don’t shake the dirt off your roots. In fact, maybe gather a little more around them. You’ll need it- more than you know- in order to start growing in the new place. Just as the root bound tendencies of plants long bound in a pot have to be cut to allow it to expand in it’s new environment, your transplant may be a painful one as you tear your roots away from one place and sink them into a new place.
And this is ministry- soil on soil, roots in soil, soil turning, seeds sprouting, leaves shooting, buds blooming, fruit bursting (or not). And repeat.
For as long as you both shall live.
“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing, To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Psalm 92:13-15
The ways of the Master Gardener are simply magnificent, don’t you think? You can rest in His good ways today.
A Kindred Spirit