A woman thrust the tomato plant into my hands when I displayed a mild level of interest. The pastors set up a garden behind the children’s wing and these were the leftover tomato plants, a bit bedraggled and needing a good home.
I couldn’t promise them the good home, but we have dirt in our backyard. I came home and put them in a large planter on a lark. Growing things is new for me.
We left a few weeks later for a 6 week trip during which a turtle died but our tomato plant flourished. It was a stunning discovery. It was large and hanging over the edge of the planter!
In adjusting back to the U.S. after so long in our former familiar culture, I needed a project to focus my attentions on. I would see this tomato plant through until it produced tomatoes. Picture a woman making a solemn vow.
I bought a cage, plant friendly insecticide, tomato fertilizer. Every day I checked on the plant which continued to grow. I read blogs and did weird things like shake the tomato plant vigorously so it would pollinate itself. Bees are scarce and I began feeling mildly panicked about our loss of the bee population in respect to my tomato plant’s chance of success.
Imagine my joy when I discovered small yellow flowers! Flowers lead to fruit. Tomatoes are a fruit! Tomatoes should soon come.
They did not. The flowers wilted and died without fruit. I got mad at the plant that failed to grow under my helicopter gardening. I stopped watering it and left it to itself in the 90+ degree September heat.
It sprang a tomato. Then another. What a tease! Fine, I thought. You’re doing so well on your own, I’ll let you continue that way. So I did.
The tomatoes kept growing bigger and still green. I began checking on them again, these very expensive tomatoes.
Then it froze this week. 2 nights in a row of a bitter cold. I neglected the tomato plant. It lay out there cold and bare with no blanket to cover it. With Christmas and busyness beyond the norm, the tomato plant got the shaft.
I don’t expect any ripe tomatoes now. Just frozen green tomatoes turning to mush. May it yet surprise me.
About halfway through this tomato story, I began to wonder why I was writing this up? What does a tomato plant have to do with anything? Probably not much but its served as a visual reminder of principles my heart needs to know. A kind of wrap up on a fall of life and ministry.
So, here is what my tomato plant taught me…
- Only so much is really under my control, and its a very little much.
- Faithfulness in what is my part of God’s will is not promised to yield
- Expectation of fruit is highly motivating, yet faithfulness is more steady a motivation
- When fruit fails to come, its easy to get discouraged, resentful, and unfaithful to my task
- God often chooses to remind me to trust Him for fruit by bringing it in unexpectedly and unrelated to the proportion of my efforts
- Fruit purposely left on the vine and untended in harsh conditions is evidence of neglect and unfaithfulness
- Yet, God can surprise and often uses harsh conditions to temper His children and make them hardier. He doesn’t waste anything.
Who knows, maybe I will get more than I deserve, more than frozen green tomatoes. It is supposed to reach back up near 70 this week.
But even if I don’t, my tomato plant experience revealed quite a bit about my spiritual life. I plan on trying again.
Gardening seems to be a God-given method to teach me His ways.