If you live in an area where you’re still shoveling snow and scraping ice, please don’t hate me when I tell you that Saturday was sunny with a high of 73 here in Emory. It was a good day to be outside and to learn a valuable lesson about tomatoes and spiritual fruit.
As soon as we finished breakfast, David grabbed his tools and headed to the back of the lot where he’s winning the war against years of fallen trees and tangled underbrush. With a little more cutting and a few more bonfires, we’ll be able to see the creek bank all the way along the property line. I went outside, too, but I opted for the lighter duty of working in the garden. However, after 5 hours of weeding and planting, muscles that are more accustomed to sitting at a keyboard than bending and squatting are not sure it was such light duty.
I love digging in the dirt and then watching the miracle of new life breaking through into the sunshine and eventually producing something good to eat. I also love the freedom the manual work gives my mind to wander wherever it will. Saturday it wandered to Portland where my grandkids live. I thought about our visit last summer when we did a little gardening together. They had a collection of seeds from the happy meals of a local hamburger place, and I had brought a few seeds leftover from my planting. We found corners of the backyard flower beds that were perfect for sugar snap peas, spinach, carrots, and zucchini. Four-year-old Zoe was more interested in the project than nine-year-old Mattias. She pulled weeds, helped prepare the soil, planted seeds, and watered them in. His mind was on bigger projects like creating a miniature golf course with Grandpa David, but even he found a couple of minutes to drop in a few seeds.
I’m not sure how their garden did – probably not very well since I didn’t hear much about it after we got home. But Mattias got involved in an interesting gardening project of his own a few weeks later. His mom Amy was preparing dinner one night, and as she was cutting a tomato for the salad, she discovered that some of the seeds had sprouted inside the tomato. She called Christian and the kids in to look at the oddity, and then she started to throw it away and look for one more suitable for dinner.
“Noooooo!” said Mattias. “You can’t throw it away. We have to plant it!”
Christian and Amy tried to convince him that it was useless; that the sprout wouldn’t grow. But Mattias was adamant.
“Okay,” Christian said. “Go for it.”
A couple of months later, Christian posted a picture on Facebook of Mattias holding a beautiful, ripe tomato produced by his odd little sprout.
While I dug in the dirt on Saturday, I thought about that tomato plant and wondered how often I’m like Amy and Christian, how often I ignore or dismiss someone because of beginnings that are unusual or that look unpromising. Do I overlook the potential in the difficult boy at AWANA who refuses to conform and perform on cue but then answers the questions with an understanding beyond his years? Do I dismiss the promise of a visitor who might be a valuable addition to our church family because she has tattoos or he has long, unkempt hair?
Jesus didn’t overlook or dismiss those with unconventional or unacceptable beginnings; in fact, He sought them out. He stopped in the middle of the street, looked up, and invited himself to dinner with Zacchaeus, a notorious, cheating tax collector. He asked for a drink of water from a many-times-divorced Samaritan woman, someone that society said he should not acknowledge much less converse with. Mattias believed that those unusual tomato sprouts would produce something good, and Jesus knew that, with a touch from the Holy Spirit, new life can break through and even the most unusual beginnings can produce good fruit.
But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (ERV)