I have a garden. It’s not much to look at really, just a small patch of dirt (and we’re going to be honest it’s more sand than dirt) in the back corner of my yard.
At the beginning of the year I was all excited about this garden. I borrowed my dad’s tiller and dug up the ground, I went to the hardware store and looked at seeds; in my mind this garden was going to be the best.
Then came the waiting time. Let the record show that I am not good at waiting. I mean seriously three MONTHS for this stupid squash to sprout? The weeds in my yard sprout in about three DAYS. Can’t we just eat them?
But I waited. And waited. And waited.
And finally I started to see little buds of green poking up through the earth. If you’ve never had a garden you can’t know how exciting that is, the realization that the thing you planted, that dead, boring looking seed, is growing up through the earth shooting out its tiny green leaves.
And then there’s more waiting. Because those little green sprouts take time to mature and grow.
But finally they did grow and there was fruit on the vine, not very big fruit mind you, but it ripened nicely, and it was truly exciting to slice into that tomato that I had watched grow for all that time and take juicy, delicious bite.
Only then, it seemed like the garden hit a wall. The tomato plants stopped bearing fruit, the squash vines seemed to stagnate, the corn stalks gave us MAYBE two good ears. And I started to get discouraged.
“This dirt’s no good,” I told myself. “I’m gonna have to wait till next year and start over. I’m gonna do it right this time, with lots of fertilizer. But this crop? It’s done for.”
So I stopped checking the garden every day, stopped watering in the mornings and evenings, stopped thinking about anything but the next year.
And then my wife came to me one day and said, “Have you seen the garden lately?”
And of course I hadn’t, so she dragged me outside, and lo and behold the squash vine had started to take over the whole garden. And not only that, but my tomato plants had started to perk up a little too. And on top of all that, there was another tomato plant in a section of the garden where I hadn’t planted anything, happily growing up thick and green without any help from me at all.
And it was then that I realized that I had been looking at the garden wrong the whole time. See, I thought it was me making all this stuff happen. My water, my dirt, my fertilizer. Without me those pathetic little plants didn’t have a chance.
But then I thought of the verse in the Bible that says something to the effect of, “I planted, another watered, but God gave the increase.”
And I don’t think it applies to just gardens. There are times in our lives when we do everything right, and everything seems to go wrong. And there are times when we’ve all but given up, and suddenly some new blessing appears out of nowhere.
I think writers are in just about as good a position as anyone to understand this principle. It’s easy to get frustrated when we’ve worked so hard getting things right, and someone else who seems like they haven’t put in nearly as much work, rockets to the top of the readerboards.
The truth is, it’s not because the system is unfair, or because anyone is out to get us. The truth is that we simply don’t have nearly as much control as we’d like to think we do.
It’s not an excuse to give up. It’s just a simple fact of life. We can work and struggle as much as we want to get to the top of the pile, but in the end, it’s God who gives the increase.