Sunday, June 10, 2012
Another Tomato Lesson
In an earlier post titled An Endless Parade I talked about the miracle of the tomato plants here on our little plot. The Lord must have the tomato in my life to be visual lesson for me. I have to laugh. Of course he would use the one thing in my life that can rival chocolate! I often say that if you place a true garden-grown tomato and dark chocolate in front of me I would hesitate, but most likely choose the tomato. Our God always uses what will gain and garner our attention to teach us.
The tomatoes came up on their own again this spring. Several little plants shot up through the ground and they looked like nothing more than weeds (they are weeds). My husband and I waited. We wanted to let these plants get bigger before we started to weed the beds. We wanted to let them grow for a while so they would establish good roots and withstand the transplant.
Now, I talk like I know a lot about tomatoes. Let’s get this straight. I don’t. I know more now than I did two years ago, but I still know very little. But I have a couple of people in my life who do. There are two in particular.
One would be considered an Olympic tomato grower. Not a professional expert, but an incredibly well-trained and disciplined tomato grower. His beds and plants look like works of art. The other is a professional expert. I asked her a question the other day about a tomato problem and I was stunned at the wealth of usable information that she gave without hesitation. She’s an expert. But there are lots of people who are experts. What separates her from the others is that she truly loves the tomato. She loves the the tomato in a manner akin to my own passion. When you couple the expertise with the passion then you have someone to listen to and emulate.
But, here’s what I tend to do. Because I am not an Olympic amateur or a passionate expert I tend to dismiss my own experiences and knowledge of the tomato. That, however, is for another post.
At the beginning of seedling season this expert was discussing tomato plants with me. She was talking way over my head and far beyond my limited experience, but she said something that caught my attention. We were talking about growth and how we wanted our tomato seedlings to grow.
We want growing, not just stretching.
My mind was about to cloud over with all the information she was giving me, but this phrase shouted for my attention. God had found a teaching moment with me. He knows how to talk to me. He knows my language.
In a tomato plant’s cycle of growth there needs to be enough light and nutrients and water to promote new cell growth. If all of these elements are present in goodly and consistent amounts then your plant will be stocky, thick and full. If one or more of these elements are not consistent, especially sunlight, then the plant will be tall, thin and with a sparser set of leaves. This means that there has not been a great deal of new cell growth. What is happening, this expert explained, is that the present cells are stretching. They are pulling upward to try and gain the sunlight. But there is little new cell growth. If you were able to look at the plant on a cellular level you would see that the cells are pulled and misshapen in their attempts to reach upward. These plants are more frail and fragile in their structure.
They are tall because they have stretched not because they have grown.
How many times in my life have I asked God to stretch me? Now, I understand the context that I have most often made this request: I wanted to move outside of my comfort zone. But as I listened to this information about the tomato, because of Jesus’ constant use of agricultural visuals, I knew I needed to ponder this.
Do I want to be stretched? Do I want the spiritual cells present within me to just be stretched or do I want new cell production? I don’t want to be frail and fragile. I want to be strong and thick and stocky (when have you EVER heard a woman say this phrase?)
The Word never talks about being stretched (I only found one reference in the NIV. Psalm 104:2. God is stretching out the heavens there.). But through his Word our Father is constantly exhorting and encouraging us to grow.
New cell production.
This is what I will ask for now. I no longer want what is present in me to simply be stretched.
I want growth.
Come, Master Gardener. You are my expert. I ask for your gentle assessment concerning whether I am growing or just simply stretching. Don’t allow me to be fooled or deceived by the height of my stalk. I don’t want to stretch myself; I want you to grow me. Produce new cells in me. Healthy cells: ones that will lead to the bearing of fruit. And that is the point, isn’t it, God? To produce fruit in accordance with who we are. To produce fruit in abundance. I ask that you help me stop striving to stretch. Help me to settle into this spot you have planted me. Send water, nutrients and light. And help me recognize the methods and means by which you do this. Help me to simply just be and grow.
Amen and amen.