One of my favourite parts of gardening is seeing the first sprouts pushing their heads through the ground. The newness and anticipation of a coming harvest is exciting. How big will the beets grow this year? How many zucchinis will come? Will we be able to harvest the tomatoes before the first frost?
(A quick disclaimer before I continue. I am not an experienced gardener, so please do not take this post as gardening advice.)
I love seeing those little seedlings grow bigger each day.
Soon, however, comes a stage I don’t like so much: thinning the garden.
Often gardeners plant more seeds than they will let grow to full maturity. Because of this, the seeds are too close to each other.
As the seeds grow, they become crowded and begin to fight for sunlight and water. If not thinned, none of the seeds will grow strong and healthy. They will remain half-shrunk and weirdly shaped as they strain for more light.
So, the morning comes when I slip into my gardening sandals and head out for a closer look.
First, I pull the weeds. I mercilessly yank them from the ground. They don’t belong. They won’t bring value or a harvest. I don’t want them. They only serve to get in the way of the plants I want to grow.
Then I look at the radish row. They’re often quicker to grow than the others. The plants are far too close. I know I have to thin them if I want large healthy radishes.
I crouch down and take a deep breath.
I pull a radish seedling. Looking at it, I feel bad to have had to pull a perfectly healthy and good plant that could have grown excellent food. Still, if I didn’t pull that seedling out, the others wouldn’t grow well.
Looking again at the row, I pull another seedling and then another. Pretty soon I have a pile of radish seedlings. Thankfully I can eat these sprouts for lunch. Yet something inside of me remains sad that they will never reach their fullest potential.
When at last I sit back and look at the radish row, I smile. These remaining plants will now be able to grow strong and healthy. It was painful pulling the sprouts, but the reward will be worth it. No half-grown radishes for me.
On to the next row of plants I go, and then the next. Pretty soon the garden is looking far more empty, yet I remind myself that it now holds more chance of reaching its fullest potential. The harvest will be bigger and better because of the thinning I did today.
What about in my life? Do I need to do some thinning there?
Having grown up attending church, I have long known the parable of the sower. The part about the seed that fell among the weeds seems fitting to consider now.
“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. … these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:7, 18-19 CSB)
Okay, got it. In order to be fruitful for God, I must get rid of the weeds in my life. Weeds are bad things, right? Don’t covet wealth, don’t worry, don’t pursue other bad worldly things. If I get caught up in those, my life won’t reach its fullest God-given potential.
Take out the weeds in my life, and I’m good to go, right? My experience in the garden says there might be more to do.
Maybe there are other things I need to thin out of my life in order to thrive in what I keep.
Jesus, after having a powerful night of ministry did just that, as recorded in Mark 1:35-38 (CSB).
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place; and there He was praying. Simon and his companions searched for Him, and when they found Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.'”
I can so easily read those verses and think, “Everyone was looking for Him. He could have stayed and taught them so much more and done more miracles. They were ready to listen.”
Jesus, however, knew the task His Father had placed before Him. If He was to fulfill His mission on earth, He had to move on.
Sometimes I get caught up in all the good things I have opportunities to do. When a door is open, that means I should go in, right?
I must remind myself that this is not always the case. As with my garden, if I am involved in too many good things, none of them will thrive. They will be half-nourished and straining for light.
Instead, I need to prioritize my life intentionally. Sometimes prioritizing includes pulling out good healthy things so that the rest can thrive.
What do I need to thin out of my life so that what remains can grow? I’ll have to follow Jesus’ example and pray about that.
In the meantime, here are some valuable quotes to ponder.
“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” – Watchman Nee
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” – D. L. Moody