Watching Things Grow (Part 2)
Happy Fourth of July from Nicaragua!
In last week’s post we looked at how growth happens and how, in the end, only God can make things grow. Knowing that only God makes things grow, what exactly does this growth process look like? We will take a look at this in today’s post.
In watching the papayas over the past two months, I have been reminded that growth can be a bit of a mystery. After planting, some of the papaya trees shot up and grew vigorously right away, while others lagged behind. One of the most fascinating parts of this is that sometimes papaya trees that were right next to each other appeared to be on very different growth schedules. In fact, in certain instances, some of the plants were twice as big as their neighbor despite the fact that they were planted at the same time. Equally as interesting as the different growth rates early in the life of the papaya trees in Vera Cruz, is the fact that the papaya trees have mostly evened out about a month and a half later (check out the pictures below). It appears that many of the papaya plants that were lagging behind caught up and are now on schedule to produce fruit at the same time as their fast-starting friends. So how did this growth process work?
When growing something, whether it is a plant or our hearts and minds, I believe there are a few very important factors. This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list of what is important when trying to spur on growth, but I do believe these factors play a part in any growth process. The place I believe we need to start is vision. In order to stay committed to growth, we need a picture of what the final (or at least what we envision at the time to be) product is going to look like. With the papaya trees, we have a picture of what they should look like when they reach the fruit producing stage and approximately how much fruit they should produce. We also know that this means we will be able to move forward with the training we hope to incorporate and with assisting the orphanage in Vera Cruz with some of the profits from selling the papayas. This vision helps us to continue to be patient, even when some of the papaya plants grow slower than the others. Additionally, it helps us stay committed to the steps necessary to ensure the plants continue to grow into healthy, fruit producing trees. This is true in many aspects of our lives, including spiritual growth. If we examine Colossians 3, Paul gives us a picture of what it looks like to be “hidden in Christ” as he says in Colossians 3:3 (NIV 1984). Colossians 3:12-17 gives us a great vision of what it means to be a sold-out, Follower of Christ. There are many other instances throughout the Bible where this is true as well.
Just like with the papayas, once we have a picture of what it would look like for us to truly be following Christ with our hearts, souls, minds and strength, we will gain the intention, as Dallas Willard says to complete the steps necessary to ensure we become healthy, fruit bearing Christ Followers. The intention piece of the puzzle is not as tangible as the other parts, but it is equally important. In his bookRenovation of the Heart,Dallas Willard says one of the main reasons we never change is because we never actually intend to. This could be true with the papaya trees as well. We could have a list of all of the necessary steps to take and all of the knowledge necessary to take a papaya tree from a seedling to a healthy, fruit producing tree, but if we never have the energy and drive to actually put this information into practice we will more than likely fail. This is why having a concrete vision of where we are heading is so important. If we believe in this vision, it will drive us to take the steps necessary to get as close as we can to the final product. This is true with the papaya trees as well as our lives.
Once we have the picture that creates the energy necessary to make it a reality, we need means or steps to take to get there. When it comes to agriculture, this typically means fertilizing, watering, weeding and monitoring. As you can imagine, these means can be time consuming and monotonous at times, but because we have a vision for what they will produce, it is relatively easy to stay committed to them. Every time we complete one of the steps necessary to keep the papayas moving forward, we know we are one step closer to our vision. Our lives work the same way. If we have a true vision of whom God is calling us to be as a Follower of Christ, it becomes much easier to complete the steps necessary to get there. Whether it is the “putting off” and “putting on” Paul talks about in Colossians 3 or the other spiritual disciplines we find throughout the Bible, we have a much greater chance of staying committed if we have a vision of where we are going that creates the energy necessary to move ahead. This picture of growth or change – Vision, Intention and Means – was developed by Dallas Willard and has been very valuable in my life. If you would like to know more about it, you can check out his book, Renovation of the Heart.
However, as I mentioned in last week’s post, only God can make things grow. What is fantastic for us, and the papaya trees for that matter, is that this growth process and the steps involved in it were developed by God. We were created to grow in a certain way and God, being the gracious and loving god that he is, doesn’t leave us in the dark. If we stay connected to the God who made us and take the steps necessary to reach the vision He gives us for our lives, God will be faithful to his part, growing us. In reading Jesus’ words in John 15 we can see this. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…” (NIV 1984). Much like the papaya plant that God made to “remain” in healthy soil in order to produce fruit, we must remain in the place we were created to, God. If we are remaining and taking to steps necessary to continue the growth process, God will do exactly what He promised and we will bear fruit. Much like the papaya plants, this will look different for each of us and we shouldn’t be discouraged if we aren’t a “fast-starter”, because in the end, God will grow us to the exact point for which he created us.
So how does this growth model impact the work that we are doing in Nicaragua? Check out next week’s post to find out! Have a great Independence Day if you are in the United States of America. The people who founded our nation understood this model of growth and paid dearly for the “vision” we are now enjoying. May we never forget this.
– James Belt