At the moment, I’m perched on the screened porch of our little log cabin in Wisconsin. The dense pine trees suggest that the woodsy expanse before me goes on for miles. Actually, there are farm fields less than a mile away. It occurs to me that local farmers must be extremely happy with their crops this year. Most of the corn stalks anticipated to be “knee high by the 4th of July” surpassed that expectation by a foot. The fields we passed as we drove north from Madison and beyond boasted lush greenery which will hopefully yield abundantly as well. I’m taking a moment in the midst of my musing to offer a prayer for our farmer friends. In spite of the misery that the COVID-19 pandemic sowed around us, farmers persisted in their work.
As I continue to gaze into the trees that flourish around me, my thoughts turn to another instance of amazing and unexpected growth. I could never have predicted what would become of the “seedlings” placed in our care when my husband and I became parents. Though, to me, our sons were the most beautiful babies I’d ever seen, I had no idea of what would become of them when Mike and I brought them home from the hospital. Our older son provided the greater challenge because his parents had never before cared for an infant twenty-four/seven. Somehow we managed by relying upon our instincts, others with parenting experience, our copy of Dr. Spock’s childcare manual and lots of prayer. When our older son was about three years old, doctors told us that he would be our only child. Five years later, they were as surprised as we when we discovered that our younger son was on the way. Though Mike and I had learned enough to welcome Tim into our lives without too much trepidation, we had forgotten enough about infant care to remain humble in this endeavor.
While raising our sons, Mike and I were continually amazed by their growth. Like those thriving fields lying beyond the pine trees at the cabin, our sons grew and thrived in unexpected ways. At the same time, there were occasions when Mike and I worried just as our farmers friends do during droughts or floods. Sometimes, we questioned our methods. Sometimes, we questioned our sons responses to our efforts. Always, we did the best we could and then reminded ourselves that Mike and Tim were always in God’s capable hands. As I gaze into those pine trees which have grown far taller than Mike and I ever expected, I picture our sons. I smile at the thought of these two young men who mean the world to me and I say, “So far, so good.” This is the reason that I look to today’s gospel where Jesus offers the parable of the sower and the seed with much gratitude and with great hope in the things that lie ahead.
In today’s gospel (Matthew 13:1-23), Matthew shares Jesus’ story: A farmer went out to sow. As he did, some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. When the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it. Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. Dedicated farmers like the one Jesus spoke of are responsible for the lush fields I saw during our drive to the cabin. After assessing elevations and hydration patterns, they planted uniform rows. They planted to achieve the highest yield on the least amount of land. I wonder what a farmer within earshot might think of the sower in Jesus’ story. Who would haphazardly scatter seed as Jesus describes? Who would waste the time and the resources to plant in places where seed seemingly has no chance to grow? I can also ask, “Who would place two precious children in the hands of incompetents like my husband and me?”
It seems to me that the great faith which our indiscriminate Sower-God has in each one of us is the reason. Rather than to predict where fertile ground might lie, Jesus spread his message to everyone: on heavily trodden paths, on rocky ground, in the midst of thorny shrubs as well as on obviously fertile patches. Jesus persisted with every confidence in the quality of the seeds he sowed and with every confidence in his imperfect followers upon whom those seeds fell. God would see to the rest. As I continue to savor the abundant growth around me, joy fills me up. I thank God for our sons and the wonderful wives and grandchildren they’ve added to our family. I thank God for the amazing accomplishments of people everywhere as we work together toward a healthy, just and all-inclusive world. In all of these things, I see that God’s faith in us is as well-placed as our faith in God. It doesn’t matter whether God’s word falls upon the fertile ground of our goodness or the thorny shrubs of our imperfections. The seeds God plants within us have the potential to grow wherever they fall from God’s hand.
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