As my husband and I were driving north of Sacramento last summer, a huge truck loaded to the brim with ripe tomatoes was slowing the traffic and allowing me time to take in some beautifully busy scenery and ponder some parenting questions. We were on our way to pick up our sons of thunder, two future leaders, from a summer camp and two weeks’ worth of all sorts of outdoor obstacles, as well as some deep and meaningful conversations about life and faith. (That was just the sons, the adults opted for a week of wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma). To the left of I-5 highway as far as the eye could see there were vast fields all red with ripe tomatoes and peppered with combines, trucks and workers. Harvest time.
I was thinking – we have definitely invested all we had into our boys, much like the farmers in this area have invested in their fields. Perhaps, now was our “harvest time” as well. With as much love, patience, kindness and self-control as we could muster, we have poured all our energy into them, wanting to be good stewards of God’s gifts. Sunday school and Bible lessons at home, loving and serving people, learning right from wrong – planting the seeds, watering and fertilizing, right? They were late teens by now and I was ready for the work to pay off. Looking at the tomato fields I was asking God a question and was answering it myself (do you ever do it?) … Yes, a huge delicious harvest should be on the horizon! We will finally see the fruits of our labor. We have been faithful as much as we could, and God is about to empty dump trucks of Holy Spirit’s blessings onto our boys. We are about to see hearts on fire, full of sweet love for Jesus, and good deeds to back it up. These boys will bless the socks off the world!
An almost audible voice quickly replied:
“Well, what about the other side of the road”?
“What about it?” I think these are almond or some kind of nut trees. Miles of perfect rows of skinny little saplings and not a farmer in sight. I don’t think anything will come out of these for a long while. I am not impressed.
“Raising your kids is actually more like growing these trees, rather than tomato plants”.
“What?! Are you telling me that it’s going to take yet another decade or two to see results? More prayers and work, more patience and kindness, more time and energy. No delicious bountiful harvest anytime soon?!” I look at the truck ahead – if its back latch was to break open, we would be buried under a mountain of tomatoes. Now that’s a blessing! “Come on, we have counted all your promises, God. Let me remind you of some…”
After a long soliloquy (or tantrum really) the patient voice asked me just one more thing.
“How LONG do you want your boys to bear fruit? Just once, or for years to come? If they are to be my instruments in the world year in and year out, they will need time to grow and mature properly”.
Exasperated pause. Fine, you got me!
It’s true – after the tomatoes were harvested, the plants themselves were dug out and thrown away, leaving the fields without another promise, while the patch of young trees would one day turn into old gnarly ones that were there to stay, and would go on to bear fruit for generations to come.
Lessons from farm to table that day: God always has an upper hand in an argument. Don’t answer his questions for him. Quit the tantrum and listen. No matter what you are trying to grow – family, business, community – do not settle for a one-time harvest, rather take time to plan for abundant and delicious returns for generations. Remember that tree planted by the running waters? (Come to think of it, the Bible doesn’t really have anything to say about tomatoes.)
Katherine S. is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, but has lived for the last 20 years in the US, Moscow and Dubai. She is a passionate mother of two teenage boys, and when she isn’t loving on others by cooking and entertaining, she is hiking with her Hungarian Vizsla “Libby”.