I planted Mammoth Russian Sunflowers, five in a row in the bed on the side of my house. I didn’t have to wait long before five little green shoots came up between old mulch chips. I had high hopes for attracting pollinators to our raised beds of vegetables, a harvest of seeds, and cheerful big bright flowers.
Per the instructions on the packet, I planned to plant another round of seeds two weeks later to stagger the growth and prolong the presence of sunflowers.
I suspect chipmunks.
One morning, there was a tiny hole in place of a sprout. The next day there were a couple more holes and a couple less sprouts. By the end of the week, all of the tender little shoots were gone.
I wish those chippers could have known that if they had waited, there would have been more food to feed more creatures, themselves included.
I am like them.
I get scritchy scratchy about scarcity. I find a little scrap here and there and devour it like I may never see another morsel as savory. I do not consistently trust that if I listen, wait, and watch—which is prayer—I won’t ever have to muscle my way through anything.
Two seeds are sprouting in my spirit. The first is patience, and the second is repentance. Their root systems are entwined.
I was talking with my spiritual director about scarcity of time, and she said that people who are skilled in time management are often impatient. Boom.
She drew my attention to people that I admire, and asked me to notice how they move. Slowly and deliberately. Unhurried and purposefully. This seems like an impossible combination, but one that entrances me when I spot it.
This is repentance: the sobriety to see something clearly and make a change that is within reach. In contrast, repentance is not a recounting to God what we ought to be and aren’t. That’s a dreaded desolate humiliating place. No wonder we avoid it.
Repentance is instead a sweet place to come upon in the company of Kindness, a fertile place of springs and rain that yields green growth and a delightful promise of produce.
The prophetic literature in Scripture describes places like this as an inheritance. It still feels mysterious, but it seems that inheritance has something to do with joy, that our inheritance as God’s people is Joy.
Joy is like sunflowers that delight for their sheer existence and nourish many creatures. So, it’s time for me to plant more seeds, but this time in containers where I can water, watch, and guard them until they’re hearty enough to repel chipmunk threats on their own. Then I’ll plant them in the earth where they can bloom and grow, and attract pollinators and passersby.
I find it much easier to wait for plants to grow than for the fruit of the Spirit to grow, in myself and others. But gardening novices like me have a naïve view of what it takes to get a harvest worthy of the labor and resources it requires. Those that depend on their produce for their livelihood or their sustenance know that waiting is hard. It’s active and engaged, aligned with the needs of the plants and the soil, and attentive to a variable climate.
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes waiting as a crucible, and this sounds about right. It’s the crucible that helps develop a mellow heart, which is well suited for Joy. I expect that is what God is after.
So, we come again to transformation, that lifelong task of Christ being formed in a person. It is worth waiting for. And this kind of waiting doesn’t diminish us, it enlarges us so that waiting becomes as good as obtaining.[i]
What are you growing? How are you growing?
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[i] Romans 8:22-25 in The Messages