Tears, Tomatoes and Time: Un-fun lessons of Christian growth

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/Guest post by Tory Gravitt, introverted Jesus lover, tireless dreamer, teacher of children, and Gabrielle’s friend.

My grandmother is remembered for two things: her love for people and her divine-given gift for cooking. She made the best biscuits and butterscotch pie you’ve ever tasted. Looking back, I wish that I had eaten vegetables as a kid, because she grew all her own vegetables – corn, okra, tomatoes, green beans. She had two plots in the backyard where she would tirelessly devote herself to growing fresh veggies for her family. It’s from my Granny that I learned about growth.

Seasons are an inevitable part of growth, whether it is in corn or in people. There has to be a time for everything. There’s a science to it. Just as much as we wish we could rush summer into fall or winter into spring, we can’t. You can’t defy what nature -God- has handed you. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” [Genesis 8:22]

I’m learning a lot about seasons these days, and not just because my eyes are itching and I’m sneezing from pollen, but because I’ve seen the growth cycle, very obviously playing out in my life:

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Now, let me explain what this means for us who aren’t growing our own tomatoes in the backyard.

A Time of Harvest and Reaping

I start here because this is the easiest place for people to relate to. For us, the harvest is a season when you don’t have to wake up in the morning and choose joy. This is the season when the sun is perpetually shining. Blue birds are on your shoulder and everything is happy and satisfying. This is the time when you can see the fruit of your labors. This is when people ask you how you’re doing and you reply, “great!” and actually mean it. This is when you can feel God’s favor, and see His tangible blessings pouring in.

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance… Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure… You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” [Pslam 16: 6, 9, 11]

A Time of Drought

There comes a point in everyone’s life where the blue birds fly away, the clouds cover the sun, and when you have to remember to choose joy. In agriculture, this could be droughts, floods, or storms. Cataclysmic times when everything that a farmer has worked towards is gone. For us, it means that this is when we come off of cloud 9, or something pulls us away. “Terrors are turned upon me; my honor is pursued as by the wind, and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud. And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me.” [Job 30: 15-16] Be it a broken dream, a closed door, an end to a relationship, financial hardship, illness, idleness, separation. This can last for days, weeks, or even years- these things that make us forget the harvest and make us long for a new season. But before a new season can emerge, the fallow, hardened ground must be broken. Springtime is coming and it’s time for a new fruit to be planted.

A Time of Tilling and Preparing:

When my grandmother would begin a new growing season, she and my uncle would spend a week or so tilling the ground. My grandmother used a rotary tiller to stir and pulverize the ground, in order to aerate it and prepare a smooth, loose seedbed. Because after laying dormant for some months, especially during winter, the ground needed to be brought to life again. This is the painful part. This is when it feels like our hearts are in turmoil over what God is helping us through. But just like a broken arm, it’s going to be uncomfortable. Because let’s face it, at the root of every insecurity and doubt is a lie we’re believing. During preparation for a new season, these nasty roots must be brought to the surface, or else they’ll choke the new ones. But you can see the beginnings of new earth, you can see the where new fruits can emerge. This is a painful, yet hopeful season. The winter is over. Spring is coming. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” [Psalm 51:7-12]

A Time of Planting and Sowing

It’s time to plant new seeds. I remember helping my grandmother plant seeds in the fresh ground; each one has its own way to grow. Some can be scattered loosely, and they find roots. Others had to be intentionally and gently placed in the ground. The way the seeds are planted determines how the fruit grows. You learn from past harvests what works and what does not. This requires patience; crops will not spring up the day after you plant them. You have to tend to them and make sure they are being nourished.

This is when you can take a deep breath. This is when you know God is doing something big; He’s planting and harvesting fruits that will bear you and Him great things.  “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” [Psalm 126:5] Sometimes this is labor intensive, and you must keep watch over your heart (or your corn). Sometimes this is a fruit that you know will nurture itself on its own. And sometimes, you have to take out the weeds whose roots didn’t get tilled up.

But then, you get to reap what you so patiently let grow. You get to see the fruits of your labor and your pain. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” [Hosea 10:12]

It’s all a cycle. I’ve seen it first hand several times in the past year. I’ll share with you where I am now.

In September of 2012, I was in a new community of friends, had a new attitude about school, I was dating an awesome guy and was overall, growing, blooming and thriving. Life was going my way. I was seeing the benefits of what I had prayed for and prepared for. I was coming out of a season of separation, and I was feeling connected again. In March of 2013, my relationship ended, I lost my community, and things really were not going my way. I was in a drought. The harvest was plentiful, but everything I had hoped for was washed away in an instant. I was hurt, lonely, and confused. I was isolated and angry with God for so many things. But God being the God He is, when I cried out for rain, He poured it on me. One day I prayed, “God, I need to get out of this.” And He gently confronted me. He gently confronted me about my pride. He confronted me about my feelings towards Him. He was tilling my spirit. Bringing up things that I didn’t want to deal with in the past, lies that I had let seep into my being, things that I had my roots in that were not stable… and while I was isolated, it was necessary. I finally saw that God got me alone so that He could have my attention. Even though it was painful and ridden with tears, the tilling is vital to healthy growth. I am now moving into a sowing season. I am learning things that I know will benefit me in the future. I can see the harvest, and spring is here, both in Georgia and in my heart.

What I want us all to learn is something that God so gently, but so obviously told me, “You can’t rush this pain.” “For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.” [Ecclesiastes 8:6] We can’t rush the seasons of our lives much more than we can rush the seasons of the land. There is a time for everything, and everything is vital to growth. Don’t take off the cast before the break is healed. Otherwise, we walk around with scars and limps that affect us for the rest of our lives. We are always growing. Though we may stop growing physically, we can count on God to nurture our spiritual growth. Be rooted in the season your in, and live in the hope that God is sovereign over every growth, veggies included. Know that there is nothing wrong with any season, harvest, preparation, or sowing.

There is a time for weeping, a time for healing, a time for pain, a time for growth, and a time for rejoicing. Let’s be rooted where we are, and ask God to make the most of our seasons. “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” [Jeremiah 17:8]

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One thought on “Tears, Tomatoes and Time: Un-fun lessons of Christian growth

  1. Great post Gabrielle. I too feel as though I have been in extended drought and preparation seasons. It’s been roughly over two years since my last harvest season. Despite all the difficulties that have come with such seasons, I can attest to the tremendous growth I have experienced during that time; growth that I don’t think would have been as much if it was harvest time every time. God has done some serious uprooting on me, he has taken me back to the gospel basics, has torn down what I believed my life should be and is still rebuilding it. No doubt, it is painful, at times excruciating. But I have learnt not to pray for God to take me out of it but for His grace to keep me, mould me and see me through to my next “harvest” season. Thanks for the reminder and for the encouragement.

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