I recently returned from a trip with my husband, Jim, to Destin, Florida. To get there from Macon involves a long ride through South Georgia farmland. As we rode past field after field of cotton, Jim told me that cotton is a difficult crop to grow because the growing season is quite long, creating many opportunities for something to go wrong that damages or ruins the crop.
I thought about that in relation to my life as I attempt to follow Christ. From the outside looking in, one would think that the longer you do it, the easier it gets. With many things we do in life this is true, but I find that, like the cotton crop, the longer I’ve been on this journey of discipleship, the more I am aware of the ways I fall short in living a Christlike life.
In Luke 8:4-15, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who sows seed in his field. Some never gets in the ground; some grows, but quickly dies because it grows among rocks. Other seed grows, but gets choked out by plants around it and some seed falls on good soil and produces a bountiful crop. Whenever I’ve read that parable, I don’t visualize a long wait to see what happens to the various seeds. I expect it to be like the radishes in my garden—I plant the seed and within four or five days, I see little green leaves sprouting up. Radishes are the closest thing I’ve found to instant gratification plants!
I wonder if others read this parable like I do and think that once the word is sown in good soil and begins to grow (and grow quickly) everything is wonderful. Maybe I should think of that seed as cotton, or maybe a better example is a tree—something that grows over a long period of time and is subjected to many conditions like drought, flood, heat, cold, disease and bugs. My journey of discipleship has occurred over a long period of time, and hopefully will continue for many more years, but I am realizing that it is a journey from which I never arrive this side of heaven. It is difficult at times and easy at times. There are many days I travel in darkness, unable to feel the presence of God, but there are also days in which I bask in his light. If I think of my discipleship enduring a variety of conditions like a long-lived plant does,
I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:45: For [God] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. There will be continual challenges to faithful living, and I expect there will be many who wonder why I even continue on such a journey. I may wonder the same thing myself at times.
The growing season for discipleship is lifelong and requires me to be patient and persistent if I want to grow into Christ’s image. Like the cotton crop, I will face many obstacles to growth, but if I will send my roots deep into Christ’s word and remain there, Jesus will be with me to help me weather whatever conditions threaten my ability to be faithful.