I have a friend who uses a simple word picture to tell the story of his marriage.
Having lost the trust and affection of his wife, he says he began to show small acts of kindness as if he were planting seeds into barren ground.
Even though there are no formulas for assuring outcomes in relationships, my friend’s story sounded realistic. He admitted that at first nothing happened. In fact, he says he waited for a long time, the way a farmer works and waits for a harvest that is as unpredictable as the weather and as slow as watching corn grow.
At some point, it occurred to me that my friend’s experience sounded not only like life but also like the wisdom of the Bible. Beginning as early as the first pages of Genesis, the Scriptures describe principles that are timeless.
Like produces like
Long after Moses described God as creating life to reproduce after its own kind (Genesis 1:11), the apostle Paul reminded us of other ways in which we get what we plant. In his letter to the Galatians, he wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (6:7 NKJV).
Friends in AA express this principle a bit differently. But they are talking about a parallel idea when they remind us that, “One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Or to say it another way, otherwise intelligent people can have one area of their life that makes no sense. Even though we would never try to get tomatoes by planting potatoes, in moments and areas of weakness, we may impulsively and intentionally forget that “like produces like.”
Fruit does not form quickly
This was my friend’s story. He discovered that waiting for a harvest of the heart can be like planting a seed or cutting back a grapevine, and then standing there watching and waiting for results.
The apostle Paul acknowledged the need to work and wait. After emphasizing that like produces like (Galatians 6:7-8), he added, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9 NKJV).
No farmer gets from his field the fast food we expect when we put money into a vending machine. Harvests do not “spring” quickly from the ground. Only with time, work, and patience do we get the result we are looking for—and more.
Weeds come with the territory
Those who live off the land do not intentionally plant weeds to compete with their crops. Nor does a person of faith deliberately try to grow problems. Yet, as Jesus reminds us in His parables, trouble happens in both field and faith (Matthew 13:24-30; Luke 8:5-8).
Some of our problems are part of the natural wear and tear of life. Some come from the interference of a real spiritual enemy. In any case, it’s important for us to remember that as necessary as it may be for us to work the soil, plant, water, weed, and feed, there is only so much we can do.
What we are waiting and working for is beyond our ability to make happen
Speaking of both field and faith, the apostle Paul wrote, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7 NKJV).
Just as farmers learn how dependent they are on weather they cannot control, so we need to see that the changes we are looking for in ourselves and others are more than “attitudes of choice” (Galatians 5:22-23). For this reason, Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4 NKJV).
Such “abiding” requires us to voluntarily remain in an empowering relationship that produces a harvest for which we cannot take rightful credit (Philippians 2:12-13).
God deserves gratitude for a good harvest
Just as the God of the harvest deserves thanks when He provides favorable growing conditions for fruits and vegetables, so we have every reason to thank the Lord when He gives us a change of heart and of relationship that, we sense, are beyond our natural ways.
In my friend’s case, his patient acts of planting seeds of love and kindness into the life of his wife eventually changed not only her heart but his as well.
For others, the outcome might be different. But what is most important is for those who follow Christ to realize that growing in His likeness is neither quick nor natural.
Father in heaven, too often we have not used the strength and opportunity You have already given us to do what You’ve asked us to do. At other times, we’ve tried to force results that can only come in Your time and at Your pleasure. Please help us to follow the example of my friend and be wise enough to keep planting and waiting—until we see the harvest that comes from You. —Mart De Haan