“There are no shortcuts in life!” Man, how many times I’ve said that during the course of our kids’ lives. How many times … even today … God has had to say that in MY life. It’s a natural human tendency. We desire to get to the point, to skip ahead to the finish line, to escape the work to get to the pay, etc. I’d like to say it’s particularly pronounced in young lives, but the more I look around, the more I see it as an epidemic among the masses, young and old alike.
In many regards, the desire to skip ahead is typically pretty trivial. Usually it’s having to wait until the end of the school year … “Oh, I can’t wait until this is OVER!” Or, “I can NOT wait until our wedding day!” But there are other times, more understandable and pronounced times, when skipping ahead is more tangible. Going through the pain of disease or the treatment for cancer, for instance. I remember watching my mom go through her chemo and looking forward to the last one, having it done, and over with. Truly, there are painful seasons in life when we are reasonable to seek their terminus. Yet … that’s not how it works. And, probably with good reason, frankly.
Think about farmers. Their entire existence is about harvesting crops, right? The goal is to plant or grow, and to come up with an increase of crops that can be sold or consumed. The POINT is to get to the end, to be able to take their pick of the product of their significant labor. But, as I was reminded this week in reading through Psalms 124-129, and Proverbs 21, while we want to take our pick of the harvest, there is much that matters in the plowing and planting.
Psalms 126 says:
When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.
Farmers will tell you, there’s NO harvesting without plowing and planting. The difficult, tedious, backbreaking effort is in plowing through and planting seed. The celebratory part is in the harvesting. In fact, in many, many cultures there are celebrations, festivals, parades, and holidays centered around the harvest. Not so for plowing and planting. I can’t say I’ve done an exhaustive search, but I’ve checked and there aren’t any. Why? Because the end goal is the harvest. The end goal is not plowing, but it’s critically necessary. The end goal is not planting, but try to harvest something without it.
Life is similar. As much as we hate to admit it, the plowing and planting in life are the least enjoyable parts. They’re backbreaking, arduous, painful. They’re not the celebrated times, they’re the “gotta deal with it” times. Why? Because the “gotta deal with it” times are what lead to the harvests in life.
Where are you plowing and planting right now? In other words, in what areas of your life might you be in a season of plowing through and planting seed, and perhaps not realizing that somewhere down the road you’re going to reap the harvest? Whether or not we realize it, all of us are in some measure in the time of plowing, planting, and harvesting in a variety of ways.
The Israelites knew this experience. They lived in exile for a long, long time. In fact, the southern kingdom of Judah was taken away in exile in Babylon, during which time God led the prophet Jeremiah to remind them, basically, to plow and plant for 70 years, because while the harvest was promised, it was not to occur before the plowing and planting (see Jeremiah 29:1-14).
In the sense that they were alerted to their plight, the Israelites were fortunate. It’s not always like that for us. Sometimes the challenge is realizing that we’re in the growth stage, that which is after plowing and after planting, but before harvest. Beyond that, the challenge is being willing to accept that we’re in that stage. But the hardest part is waiting … waiting to get to the harvest. Again, any farmer will tell us that the harvest isn’t plentiful until it’s complete. If we try to pick the crop too early, it’s useless and worthless. It needs to grow to full maturity before it’s harvest-worthy. I guess the same is true for the situations in our lives.
I pray this week that we’ll all ask God to reveal to us the circumstances in our lives that represent the plowing and planting stages, those places of challenge and growth that lead to the eventual harvest. Those are the places where God is accomplishing in us the growth He seeks. Any earlier and the crop of our situations will be useless and worthless; after all, the Farmer knows with impeccable precision when to harvest the crop.
Soli Deo gloria!