Planting seeds brings growth in unexpected way

Our friends from graduate school, Ryan and Shanna, were planning to come visit, but they had to cancel their trip.

On the way from Shanna’s brother’s wedding to the reception, Ryan got a call. His mother, Sandy, had suffered a massive aneurism in her brain, and she was in critical care at the local hospital.

She spent many days on life support in a coma, and plans were made for her likely death. Family and friends stood watch at her bedside and counted the hours. In time, she opened her eyes, regained some simple movement in one hand, and even began to mouth words once her breathing tube was removed.

Since then, her recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. She is standing with some assistance during physical therapy, and although it exhausts her to try, she is beginning to regain her speech. Her prognosis seems to suggest a dramatic recovery, although every step, both literal and figurative, is painstakingly deliberate.

Shanna and my wife, Amy, were both born on the same day. They were both pregnant at the same time in seminary, and they both gave birth to fiery, towheaded boys. Our kids have become good friends despite the current distance between them, and they both are now beginning to read.

Ryan and Shanna’s son is named Jake, and one of his favorite pastimes with Grandma Sandy is to read. Shanna recalls one trip in the car when Jake and Sandy read one of his favorite books for an hour straight, starting back at the beginning as soon as they reached the end every time. Jake had read the book so many times he had it memorized, but he never tired of having Sandy recite it just one more time.

Following her hospitalization, Jake would visit often with his parents. One afternoon following church, Jake asked to go along with Shanna to the hospital. When they arrived, Sandy’s occupational therapist was there, and greeted Jake warmly. When she asked about the dog-eared children’s book near the bed, he explained it was their favorite book to read together.

The therapist took Jake aside and explained that she needed him to help teach his grandmother the words in this book they had shared so many times. With the trust only a child can muster, he promptly crawled onto the bed and began to read, one word at a time, waiting patiently as Sandy struggled to articulate the same words she had previously shared with him.

The call of faith is to plant trees under whose shade we may never sit. Those rare, cherished moments when we get to partake of the yield from our own harvest are as close to holy as we may get on this Earth. However, they are not the reason we plant the seeds in the first place.

Sandy did not read to Jake because she thought someday that he might turn the tables and return the favor. She spent the time with him out of love, with nothing more expected in return. In her moment of greatest vulnerability, that love was repaid many times over. If there is such a thing as a gospel of prosperity, I think this is it at its very essence.

We don’t serve God because of the promise of this or that reward. We serve because it is right. Sometimes we’re called to serve those we love, and at other times, we find ourselves at the feet of our enemies. That same enemy may become our advocate in our time of greatest need, or may turn against us, despite our own good will.

It’s not for us to question who is and isn’t worthy to enjoy the comforting shade of God’s grace. It’s our job to plant the seeds.

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