“If you ask God for a tree, he will give you a seed.”
I learned this from a man named Bishop John, who was a minister overseeing several churches and schools in a town outside of Nairobi, Kenya. While we were with him, he prayed that his church would grow, and more people would be reached with the Gospel.
A few months ago, I received a phone call from a friend in the middle of the night telling me he had passed away. The next morning, I found a blog post written by a local missionary about his funeral, which was attended by 2,800 people and described as the largest funeral anyone had ever seen. He planted a seed, and the tree that grew touched the lives of 2,800 people—2,801 including myself.
When I was about three years old, my mother tried to teach me how carrots grow. I helped her dig little holes in the ground to plant the seeds, and we dutifully watered them until we saw little green sprouts above the ground. She explained to me how the carrots are growing underground, but we just can’t see them yet.
Unfortunately for the carrots, I quickly grew impatient and began pulling the plants out of the ground to see whether they were ready yet. I suppose the moral of this story is that three-year-olds do not make good gardeners. But also, that change is happening in our lives whether or not we can see it above the ground.
Sometimes our lives are completely transformed in a single moment, but most of the time, change happens without us even knowing. It doesn’t feel miraculous or life changing each day, but one day we wake up and realize we are not the same.
My mother will also tell you that a good gardener needs to cut off the dead stuff before a plant can grow. In order for new life to sprout up from the ground, we need to let the old things go.
Most of the time, the things we want are not inherently bad. I’ve known so many people with incredible dreams—to re-build a community, to start a family, to succeed in a career. Sometimes these ambitions pay off, but sometimes for unexplainable reasons, things just don’t go the way we plan. We can clench our fists around our own ideas and spend of our life trying desperately to avoid failure, or we can choose to let go now, and hope that someday we’ll understand why.
During these times, I am reminded this passage of Isaiah 43:
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV)
When we are at a beginning or an ending, we can have hope. We tend to talk about salvation as an event that happens in a single moment, but I think for most of us it’s a continual process. Little by little, we learn to accept change. We learn to forgive those who have hurt us. We discover new talents and passions. We dream new dreams, and we re-build ourselves from the ground up. We remember.
Even during difficult seasons, we write and we create and we photograph, because one day we will look back and realize that we are not the same. We can know that through the pain and the joy and the beginnings and the endings, we are being transformed.
If you know someone who is going through a difficult season, will you encourage them by emailing them this post?
Photo credit: –Tico–