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May 6, 2014

There is always a great turning and turning over at work in nature, of death going into life and vice versa. It helps me to remember that this is natural, not foreign; beneficial, not ultimately destructive. Troy Sims takes us into this turning, gently and with insight.

Growing into New Life

by Troy Sims

When I was about 4, we moved “out to the country,” and my parents wanted to grow a garden. The problem was that the soil at our “new” house was hard, white clay that even grass and weeds had a hard time growing in, so my parents went to work to make it more fertile.

First, Dad had the area plowed and then he tilled it by hand. Next we took our food scraps, week after week, to spread over the garden-to-be. Man, did it stink! I hated when it was my turn to take the scraps out, wishing I had a 10-foot pole to hold the bucket far from my nose! We spread the ashes from our fireplace all over scraps, too.

We did this for years, but it made this less than fertile ground a place of abundant growth – not to mention a garden that yielded tasty veggies! The once hard, white clay became rich, brown soil. From death and ashes, new life burst forth.

Lent is a time of preparation for new life to come on Easter. A Lenten practice I encouraged the families of the church I serve to take part in was to plant something together and care for it with water and sunlight (noting that they didn’t have to use the stinky food scraps unless they just wanted to). “Together,” I advised them, “you can watch new life burst forth from the dead ground (or dirt in a pot) in anticipation of the new life of Christ that burst forth from the grave on Easter.”

My family had done this last year. I remember well the excitement my son Micah showed because he had been given a “kit” that included dirt, a cup, and a lima bean. We planted it, and EVERY morning, one of the first things Micah wanted was to see if his plant had grown yet. We kept it watered and made sure it got lots of sunlight. It seemed to take forever, but eventually something green began to protrude from the lifeless dirt, making Micah all the happier.

It didn’t take long before it began to have more form, and though it had been years since I’d seen a lima bean plant, I couldn’t help but think that this did not look one.  The more it grew, it became clear that it wasn't. It was a stalk of Johnson grass – a prominent weed in Texas. Fueled by Micah’s excitement, though, we continued to check on it, water it, and make sure it got plenty of sunlight.  Before you knew it, we had a 1.5-foot tall Johnson grass plant. The lima bean never appeared.

As I think about the life of faith, it takes a lot of practice and effort to make that life fruitful. How often are we disappointed that what grows is not what we expected or wanted?

I was certainly disappointed. I wanted Micah to have a chance to eat lima beans that he grew himself as I did as a child (even though I didn't really like them!). Yet, Micah was not disappointed at all. He had grown something.  Maybe that is all that was needed.

I wonder what this experience tells us:
about having a child-like faith, 
about giving up something for Lent, 
about resurrection and new life.


Troy Sims earned his Master's of Divinity degree from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. He has served on the church staffs of several Texas churches and was a deacon and Christian Education minister at First United Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, TX, from 2005 to 2012. If you're interested in lively, thoughtful, progressive discussion on Christianity today, I highly recommend his blog, Loving God with All Your Mind. Text copyright 2014, Troy Sims.

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