On long winter days when early sunsets insisted that he linger around the pot-bellied stove warming our living room, Daddy cast the vision of a future harvest by choosing seeds from his farmer’s catalog. As he sharpened disk blades and checked the tractor’s hydraulics, tires, and belts, he prepared for the moment the equipment would dig into the still-hard earth. Then, his crisscrossed harrowing would mangle the soil into submission so that the plow could shape deep furrows and smooth ridges where buried seeds would both die and live. On blustery days, Daddy would unknot the hay strings suspending burlap sacks of beans and peas from barn rafters and retie them to low-hanging oak branches. Pulverized like a piñata at a kid’s party, the bags of dried legumes became useful as husks disintegrated into fine chaff to be sifted by the brisk wind. On other occasions, Daddy would rake straw from beneath lanky pines and dump it by heaping wheelbarrows on the crib floor, where sweet potatoes hid protectively within the mound of its cushion. And when the season was right, he'd scrape pale tomato seeds, pewter okra orbs, and onyx watermelon offerings from stiff paper towels into rich, fertilized beds. There, beneath carefully monitored plastic tarps, he nurtured seeds into seedlings and sprouted the potato eyes he’d sliced into cubes on rainy days.
All these tasks and hundreds of other tiny attentions to detail took place before the more apparent toil of gardening began. These actions and the ones that would follow were taken because of faith in the unseen. It was an overlapping process of working and waiting as seasons and plant variety exacted different requirements from my farmer father. Amid this process, there was watching. No task was done without a careful eye on the weather, “an eye on the sky” we would say.
Daddy's faith for his fields teaches us an important spiritual lesson. We think of the spiritual harvest as the moment when the fruit is apparent. The moment a sinner is saved. The moment we accomplish what we feel God purposed for us to do. But the harvest requires faith in every season. A steadfastness that acts on what is yet unseen. For there to be fruitfulness, there must be faith to prepare, faith to endure, and faith to labor in all the tiny little areas that seem unrelated to the outcome we are hoping will unfold. It takes faith to work and to wait, and it takes an eye on the sky, an anticipation of the Lord’s return, to exercise diligence in what is at hand.
Farming in the natural and the spiritual is not always fun. There are seasons without sprouts as we deal with the unmanifested and seemingly unfruitful. There are moments when our joy in the tiny, emerging, vulnerable shoots is tempered by the need to protect and nurture what’s visibly weak. There are toilsome times of fertilizing and weeding and keeping away destructive pests--without the fulfillment of the fruit. And there is harvest. When all has reached its full ripening, even then, there’s labor in the gathering and sweat to slick our satisfaction.
Still, the harvest is worth it—worth the labor, worth the watching, worth facing the unknows of in between--because the harvest is far more than an amalgamation of our efforts. The harvest is an attainment of the supernatural. It is the culmination of our dependency on the Lord. It is the honor of synergism. We participate in the cultivation, but our tilling, sowing, and tending are not the source of fruitfulness; rather, they demonstrate an expectation in the God who brings forth the fruit He has already placed within the seed. In this partnership with glory we receive the fullness of our hope and step out of the shadows into God's marvelous light.
Tip/Tidbit: Your faithfulness to work with God to fulfill His purpose in your life and to bring people into relationship with Jesus is of great value. Make your contribution.
“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God:” 1 Corinthians 3: 7-9a (KJV)