Picking and eating a tomato that you’ve grown seems especially good. The taste is part of its goodness, but even more it can be that the picking and eating follows days and weeks of watering and nurturing, which follow preparing soil and planting. It all happens soon enough, but it takes consistent care and patience. So it is with our spiritual lives, as well as other parts of life. Tomatoes can be bought for immediacy, but they are not grown that way.
When relating to a tomato plant, as simple as that may be, there are days of being in service to it while it is not giving in return. To approach such an endeavor with the primary question, “What are you giving me, today?” as the determining factor for what I offer of myself would prove fruitless, figuratively and literally. Instead, my desire for immediate gratification is suspended in an effort to care for and nurture, knowing and trusting that the day will come when tomatoes ripen and are picked for eating. So it is with our spiritual lives. The common approach of our society is one that leans toward immediate gratification, assessing value based on whether the tomato plant put in the ground this morning produced fruit that evening, whether an attended Bible study or class provided life changing experience or enjoyment after one or two gatherings, whether a worship experience lifted and transformed you by Noon after one Sunday, whether a prayer was answered by the time of opening eyes, and so on.
I know very little about growing tomatoes. So little that I have to pay close attention to them, watering them often, sometimes too little, sometimes too much. But through my imperfect efforts, it appears that the continuing investment with so many days not providing immediate fruit pays off a lot better than the years that I just ignore them only to find too late that they’ve dried and withered away. “Spiritual life of mine, how may I, even with all my imperfect efforts and unreasonable expectations, may I nurture and consistently care for you in this and all days that I may enjoy the fruit of the Spirit that is to come?” Late summer and fall is a good time for harvesting. I’m looking out my window at the tomatoes to be picked. It is also a wonderful time and season to plant and nurture…plant and nurture new and renewed spiritual practices, that is. While I very much enjoy summer, I get excited for September because it seems like such an inviting time to seed and grow. Let us do so, together, and see what God’s garden grows.