“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” I Cor. 3:5-7
Today I spent a little time watching seeds. Actually, I stared at the soil holding the seeds pointlessly, knowing full well it’s too early for them to emerge yet. And in doing that I suddenly remembered Bible college, and the lessons we had in ‘evangelizing’. We learned how to do it. How to say things. Sometimes how to, kindly and benignly of course, set a trap for them. (That does not actually work. People seldom come to see your point of view if you try to make it by embarrassing them.) How to guide someone towards making a choice for the Lord. ‘Friendship evangelization’ (befriending non-believers in order to convert them) was a popular thing at that time. It was never my favourite part of Bible college.
The one thing about Orthodoxy that was attractive is the lack of it, or rather, the lack of ego and the un-hurried approach to almost everything, including evangelization, but in truth, to almost any spiritual process.
One of the things that started my journey to Orthodoxy is that my Orthodox chat-friends kept disappearing for Pascha. Of course, they did so at unusual dates, and didn’t say much except ‘It’s Holy Week; I’ll in be church, see you at Pascha!’. Nothing else, until I started to ask questions.
I sowed the seeds, and of course, since it’s my garden, I’ll water them and eventually hope to see some produce. But it takes time. The pumpkin seedlings have emerged – the zucchini hasn’t, and I have serious doubts that the sweet peppers will.
Gardening is something you do in stages, with a lot of patient tending and waiting in between. If I dig around in the soil now, looking for the seedlings, I’ll destroy them; they’re not ready yet.
When I have children around that I’m babysitting, I like to take them with me to garden. Sometimes they help digging over soil, sometimes sowing. If one of them is around when the berries are ripe, sometimes as many as half of the berries will make it into the bowl.
One time, it was around May, and the radishes had been growing well. I said to the boy with me, “We must very carefully check if are grown yet, without harvesting them.”
He grabbed one and pulled it out to hold it over his head. “Is it big enough yet?”
No, it wasn’t, and now it never would be; he hadn’t quite grasped that ‘harvest’ means ‘pull it out of the soil’.
In many ways, I find a quiet, let-time-do-its-thing sort of approach in Orthodoxy a lot. If our job is to sow the seeds, that’s what we do and leave it be. Maybe we’ll be around when the harvest comes, maybe we won’t. If we are the ones in the early stages of the process, then that’s all we do. We don’t go digging around later to see if something has sprouted, or pull out young plants to see if they’re ready for harvest because we are impatient, and want to see results. We learn to be content with the step we are supposed to carry out.
It can be hard! If you’ve prepared the soil and sown, you’d like to see the harvest. But in our spiritual lives, and in the spiritual life we share with others, that is not guaranteed, nor is there any room for ego in the harvest.
Sometimes I experience an instant moment of change. Sometimes someone else does. Most of the time, though, views, insights, understanding, grows like my little seedlings – taking time to emerge, still fragile, needing care and sunlight to grow into full bloom. If we try to rush it, it will die; we can only encourage.
So let’s be patient with one another, and give glory to God in all things.