I hate gardening. I know a lot of people love it, but for me it’s just outdoor housework.
I therefore found it really strange then when I was reading my personal prayer journal recently, to have a gardening metaphor occupy my mind. Honestly, I simply couldn’t shake it and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
It all happened when I came across the statement “in order to grow your faith, you have to plant your faith.” Faith is sort of strange in that sense. It’s one of those things that if you want it, you have to give it away first. Like love I guess. Real deep love, not just lust or sentimentality comes when you decide to just love someone. Strangely enough, when you do precisely that, you find yourself……loving them.
I have heard some people say stuff like: “man, I wish I could be a person of faith,” “I don’t believe in ‘x’ but I really respect people with strong faith,” or even “I wish I could believe.”
I wonder if the problem is not so much a lack of faith but an unwillingness to plant it somewhere?
The only way to have a strong faith is to grow your faith and the only way to grow your faith is to plant it in the ground. In the dark. You have to un-clench your hand and let it go down into the dirt where, yes, it will disappear from your line of sight for a while. Green shoots take time to appear, and that’s a huge problem when we’re used to microwaving last night’s pizza and watching on-demand telly.
If we take the concept-picture of faith being like a a seed, then the real problem is that we’ve only got one. Everyone kind of knows this. At the end of the day, the reality is we can’t really believe, I mean really believe in more than one thing. One world-view is always going to eventually win out against the other in the end.
It’s like we’re all around the roulette table and we’ve each got a million dollars in chips but we’re all only allowed to make one bet. So you’ve got to put a million, your only million, on a square. Which is it going to be? It’s understandable why some are a little hesitant at this point and want time to think it over as they’re either going to ‘take the house’ or lose everything.
So, where are you going to put that little seed?
Here’s the picture I can’t get out of my mind:
It occurred to me that Jesus talks about faith as a mustard seed. Now that’s obviously a really big garden plant that grows from a really small seed. What’s that seed going to need? It’s going to need earth, water and nutrients. All at the same time.
Now there are a lot of world-views around that are saying to us “plant your seed here,” and that may have one of those factors but not all three.
But the truth is any one of these three factors, by themselves are actually going to kill the plant.
Let’s take the first one; Earth. I saw a picture of a seed planted in dirt that had no water nor nutrients. This of course is what desert is. Or, your average backyard in W.A.! It’s got structure, the soil is compacted and dry, in fact our little mustard tree can’t budge, and it’s going to die.
This soil is what religious legalism looks like. It’s all good for structures but there no water of joy, not nutrients of truth. Just tight opinions.
Some plants however have adapted to this environment. They hoard all the water for themselves and man, are they prickly! I’m sure you’ve met a ‘cactus’ before. Sometimes they even draw blood if you bump into them hard enough. As for our little seed though, it’s going to die from this environment. It, we, just weren’t designed for all structure and no water.
Then I thought about water. What happens when you just stick a plant that’s designed for the soil into water?
Like I said, I’m not a gardener, but I’m pretty sure it just ends up rotten, water logged and washed out to sea. This reminds me of the modern secular ‘do what ever you like’ attitude. It’s possible to live for today, enjoy all the joys life has to offer and ultimately be totally swept away by the current in the next downpour.
You’re not rooted anywhere. When you’re in water, you’re really just….well, treading water. There’s no real rest, no peace, nowhere where you can settle. The water feels great for a while, who doesn’t like a swim? But after a while it can get scary.
That’s the problem with the idea that ‘whatever you believe is valid’, and the end of the day it eliminates the idea that truth, something solid to hold on to, even exists. Before you know it, you end up lying just to make people feel good. There’s no solidity, no structure only the current sweeping all the seeds downstream eventually to be spat out into a big wide ocean where solid earth is even further away.
But what about nutrients? Surely it’s good to planted in nothing but nutrients right? Actually, no. Have you every put a plant in a bucket of raw fertilizer? Of course you haven’t. Because if you do that the fertilizer will simply burn up the roots.
It’s possible to be over fed.
When I think of this situation it reminds of that kind of fluffy, kitsch, unrealistic “click ‘like’ if you’d help Jesus up” Facebook meme Christianity, that never gets out into the world and that makes a difference to precisely zero lives.
It’s the style of Christianity that always talks about God’s promises (as important as they are) and never about his holiness and his righteous judgments. It loves to talk about forgiveness but never about repentance. Even if it does feel called to action it’s never consistent in it’s advocacy, ignoring one area of God’s word whilst harping on about another.
It’s a seed in a pot full of all the seed-food it could possibly want, and yet it dies because it’s never seen dirt. Plain, coarse dirty dirt. The seed burns up and dies because it was over fed. It began to think that God was there to serve its’ purposes and not the other way around.
There’s only one thing worth plating that one little seed you’ve got into. That is good soil. Good soil consists of dirt, nutrients and moisture all in the right balance all at various times or seasons of the year.
Guess what? The Bible says exactly the same thing. The book of Psalms, the greatest journal of real Spiritual experiences ever penned starts like this:
Psalm 1:1-3 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
This is the doorway into the book of Psalms. Don’t expect that you’ll reach the ‘spiritual highs’ of the Psalm writers if you’re not going to take this seriously. So, then what is it saying?
Here’s what I notice, the tree’s not in the stream but next to it. It’s in the soil so it has structure. It’s next to the stream so it has water. But what else does a flowing stream bring, especially as it rises and falls with the changing seasons? Nutrients. Structure, Water, Nutrition.
It’s our choice but a choice it is.
One seed, one chance, where are you going to plant it?