One of my favorite things in the world is staring at dirt. That's right. Not even watching grass grow. That would be way too interesting. I would rather enjoy a good soil-gazing session. Why? Because of what's about to spring up from below.
I just planted some beans, carrots, and lettuce in my garden, and even though the package says they'll sprout in 7-10 days, I'm out there on day two, staring at the dirt. I almost feel as though if I don't blink they'll break out of the earth more quickly. It never happens.
Sometimes I find myself staring at dirt in life. The soil has been amended. Seeds have been planted and watered. The sun is shining. It's day two, and no reasonable person would expect a sprout for a while. But there I am. Trying to make them grow by sheer force of will. I want to do something. Surely, I'm not just supposed to wait.
I do this with myself sometimes. Some personal growth can only take place after weeks, months, or even years of ritual "watering." Habits, practices and rituals yield their benefits over time. But I keep checking the scale. I keep evaluating my spiritual life. I keep expecting (or just longing for?) change to be instantaneous.
I do this with other people sometimes too. Seeds of love and care have been planted and relationally watered. But I want to make them grow. Surely if I stare at the dirt, keep checking in, keep poking and prodding at the sopping soil, I'll be able to pull that sprout out of the seed. Do you ever do that?
If you have a spouse, or a dear friend, or an employee, a child or student you really care about, my guess is you've tried to make them grow. Maybe you spoke a well-meaning word or a harsh one (or both at the same time). Maybe you pushed them to take up an exercise regimen or a spiritual practice. Maybe you ardently debated them, hoping to convince them of a belief you believe to be deeply true and important.
As it turns out, sometimes you just have to wait. Why? Because time is exactly what the seed needs, and it's not our job to make anything grow.
Jesus uses a similarly agrarian example when he says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." He uses a gardener's image for productivity--bearing much fruit--because he knows that true impact, genuine transformation, real change is organic, not mechanistic. It's not something you can force with a formula. It's something you tend like a garden and trust God for the growth.
Jesus says that the energy for true growth and productivity comes from the Gardener of the Universe. Stay connected to him, and productivity will simply happen. We can't summon true spiritual life and vitality, we can only stay connected to the source of it.
May we all have the peace this week to water and wait.