Starting out in ministry in camps was a joy. The kids came, spent a week with me and left clinging to the cross. Even the most hardened student seemed to walk away changed. Transitioning into rural and then suburban youth ministry I felt like I made a difference. Then I walked into a world where primarily all of my students were “unchurched.”
When I had been “doing this” for about two years I had become very discouraged with the calling that the Lord had put on my life. I felt that I never saw any “results.” All of my time was spent with youth from the inner city day in and out. Relationships were built, the focus was Christ and yet somehow still there were fights, cussing, backbiting, and generally bad attitudes. I cried out to the Lord, “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG??” This is when the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 3,” I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers…”
Don’t we always hear about the harvest? After all it is mentioned both in Matthew and then again in Luke 16, “He (Jesus speaking) told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Here we plant, we water, we harvest…
I had always imagined it was sort of like an apple orchard at harvest time. Anyone who has ever been apple picking knows that the idea of it is much more fun than the actual act. Why? If you go at the height of the season, a person can basically go to one tree, give it a good hard shake and end up with more apples than you know what to do with! If I just go out under my tree the Lord is going to allow all of the “souls” to fall right into my basket. They are out there simply ripe and ready and there is no work that I have to do in order to see lives changed.
However, this is apple picking. Having an eye on the harvest is all together different. Someone had to plant the apple tree. Someone had to think about the orchard.
Planting an apple orchard is a lot of work. For even a small orchard there is planning, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, care of the seedlings and protection. Starting the orchard takes a lot of care. One must take a seed and wrap it in a wet paper towel until it starts to sprout some basic roots. Then you plant that seed in a special type of fertilized soil placed in a Styrofoam cup in a greenhouse environment.Then you wait for that to sprout a tiny little seedling.Then you replant your little sprout into a bigger bucket of special soil, and you can now allow it to acclimate to the air outside.When it finally gets a little bigger, you can finally transplant it outside in your “orchard.” Trees must be a certain distance from one another and the sapling must be planted at a specific depth. The soil has been specially prepared once again for the reception of your tender little “tree.” Rocks were dug up, soil was tilled, fertilizer was laid and even the ph balance of the soil kept in check. Now you tie your little shoot to stakes so that it can grow straight and strong. You will be the protector from such enemies as bugs, pests, birds, evil fungus, and the weather. For about 4 years your tree will simply grow, bearing no fruit. Yet, you will prune back the branches and cover it from frost. On year five your apple tree will produce An apple, (maybe two). The next year a couple more. Finally after TEN years from seed to tree you will pick your first real “crop” of apples. That is just one tree.
After a decade of care you are able to open your gates at the harvest and invite the workers to come. Yet, the marvelous thing is, at this point you can’t keep the tree from producing fruit. With some simple maintenance it will produce fruit about 8 months of the year. At this point the “harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” You are trying to give apples away. They are so abundant. This is the point at which you stand back and say, “I had a part in that apple tree!”
Yet, even then we must harvest. This is not the act of taking a bushel of apples and going home to make a pie. A harvest means we ensure that ALL the fruit from the tree is gone. There are two waves of harvesters. One goes to do the initial picking then the “gleaners” go behind to get anything that was left behind. The workers are so few in that harvest field because it takes time, care, and precision. One does not haphazardly “harvest.”
We can never claim that the tree belongs to us. However, it is now ready to withstand the elements and live for a very long time. We planted, we watered, and the Lord took care of the growing. Yet, we were a vital part of the care for that amazing tree. When the harvest is complete we ensure that more fruit will come along. It is a process during which all the elements are vital.
As I mature, I realize that I am a farmer. Sometimes I plant, other times I water, and in fortunate moments I harvest. No matter where I stand in the cycle I must see the goal. It is not always the easy choice; yet, it is right where the Lord has put me. I plant, nurture and wait with expectancy for the day that I will see the harvest. It is not always the most glamorous position and it takes a lot of patience. There are days when I think my little tree might just not make it. There are days when all of my work looks like a bunch of sticks coming up from the ground. There are times when the Lord has to wipe the sweat from my brow. Moments happen as scoffers point and whisper at my toil. I flail my arms and scream that one day the fruit will grow so strong form these tress. However, I can’t wait for the day when I will open my gates wide and invite the workers to the field, the Lord’s field and watch that fruit simply drip from the tree! I know that for me, on that this fruit will be that much sweeter. For in the seed, I saw a harvest of apples. FYI- I read somewhere once that a healthy apple tree will bear about 464 apples in one harvest.
Leneita / @leneitafix
While we’re talking about growing things…check out Grow Down by Ken Castor. It’s an awesome student book!