tangled mess and grace

Rows of yellow tubes containing dainty plants stood protected within their wire cage. The seedlings were frail now, but soon they would be beets and chard and squash and even some lettuces. All of this growth would be under the careful care of my dad, or “Papa” as my children call him. Papa composts beautiful soil out of things that I’d sooner throw in the trash: empty eggshells, coffee grounds, watermelon rinds—even drier sheets. He makes his rounds to the brewery to pick up used hops, feeds his bins of worms, and then uses their castings for fertilizer. In a word, he is committed.

I want to be a committed gardener. I live in a place where vegetables can be grown year round. But, I forget to water on a hot day; I don’t weed properly; I plant too close together, and the plants die.

Finally, this summer, Papa gave me the best advice for my adventure with tomatoes. I had arranged too many plants too close together, didn’t put the stakes up in time, and was watching them grow into a tangled mass. I had even given them too much water and some of the bottom plants were beginning to get a little mushy. As Papa and I stood and surveyed my mess, I was embarrassed and discouraged. Papa told me to leave them alone and they would get what they needed. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks we began harvesting varying shapes and sizes of luscious ripe vine tomatoes. For me, after all of my failed attempts, these tomatoes were a gift.

God’s spiritual gift of grace is like my beautiful summer tomatoes. While I can’t work my way to have better fruit in my life, God gives it to me anyway, through His Spirit. In the midst of my tangled attempts, God alone produces beautiful fruit in my marriage, with my children and in the many wonderful friendships that I enjoy. God gives grace in abundance even when I haven’t been able to earn it.

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