Stretching the Broccoli

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I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

The dirt was wet and moist as David turned off the hose. He had just gotten done planting a small patch of broccoli near their house.

David called out, “Anny… come here honey.” David’s four year old daughter who was playing outside jumped from a sand box and ran toward her father. It was still cold and Anny’s oversized coat arms drooped down nearly brushing the ground as she dashed along.

“What daddy?” she exclaimed as she looked at him with the deep blue eyes, that she obviously had gotten from her mother. David smiled.

“Did you get a chance to see what I just did Anny?”

“Sure did, you buried the little things in the paper thing in the dirt. I found some little rocks and I put them in the sand box, just like you daddy!” David smiled again, his daughter was more perceptive than he had thought.

“Your right. The ‘little things’ are called seeds and the paper thing is a small envelope… and yes, I buried them in the ground.” David had never planted things around the house before and so his daughter had never seen this strange but fun new practice. “Do you know what will happen to the ground here after a little while?” Anny cocked her head to the side and kind of squirmed a little, it was obvious to her father that she didn’t have a clue. David went on, “Well, if we put water on the ground here and continue to water it then eventually broccoli will appear here.”

Anny’s eyes got big, she had seen her mother buy broccoli at the store. Yet, how could putting seeds in the ground and putting water where they lie, make broccoli appear there? she wondered. Nevertheless, seeing her daddy’s confidence she smiled and asked, “Can we put some more water on the ground, I want to watch it appear?”

David smiled a little larger this time and said, “Dear, I can water it and you can watch it, but it takes time for the broccoli to appear.”

“I can wait, after all you said this morning that we all need to learn how to be more patient.”

“Well, that’s true, but I think we can wait inside for now. Anyways, I think your mom almost has lunch ready.” With that, David picked his daughter up in the air twirled her around, kissed her, set back down on her feet, and said, “race you to the house.” Anny’s eyes lit up and she took off running toward the door as her father pretended to run as fast as he could, but to Anny’s great delight, she made it there first.

Cold water gushed out of the hose and Anny let out a little squeal of surprise. Swinging around, she spotted her father’s large grin as he vigorously turned the faucet handle, and a smirk formed on her own face. It was a little warmer outside now and the broccoli plants were full of large green leaves. David and Anny had been coming outside each day to water the plants and for quite a while, Anny was having hard time believing that the leafy monsters would actually turn into broccoli. After all, they didn’t look anything like broccoli, but because her father had insisted that she just needed to be patient, she came outside with him each day looking for their eagerly desired vegetables.

About two days ago, Anny was finally beginning to see the fruit of her labors paying off. As the water gushed out of the hose she looked at the little heads forming in the center of each plant. When her dad had spotted them the other day, he explained that they would turn into big heads of broccoli. She went to another plant, letting the water from the hose splash and glisten as it trickled down its leaves to the soil below. She scanned each of the thick green plants until she spotted the biggest shoot rising out of its center. It was just now beginning to look like a little head of broccoli. Adjusting the position of the hose she began to water her prize find in hopes that it would grow faster. Yet as she stared at it intently, hoping to see it grow and get bigger, it remained small and scrawny. Then an idea sprang into Anny’s mind.

David stood a ways away from the little broccoli garden and was picking up some stuff in his messy yard. He was really enjoying this whole broccoli adventure and it was providing him with several opportunities to teach his daughter and other children about spiritual things. Reaching down he picked up a big air filled ball. It was a little warm from being out in the sun. Tossing it closer to the nearby shed, it bounced and rolled to a stop. He had been playing outside with his son and daughter yesterday, but when it had began to down pour, he forgot about the toys and simply focused on getting the kids inside. Now, as the sun was darting in and out of the occasional puffy cloud, it seemed like a good time pick the place up. David turned around to check on his young daughter to see how the watering was going. To his surprise, he saw the hose dropped to the ground and Anny leaning over a large green broccoli plant. David darted off toward his daughter to see what was going on. When he arrived on the scene, he found that she had pulled off all the little branches of a tiny broccoli head and was now pulling on its stem.

“What are doing Anny?” David asked somewhat bewildered, trying to catch his breath from his sudden sprint.

The stem of the broccoli head popped off the plant. Anny stood there and looked at the result of her ingenious idea with a now growing shame. Sensing the obvious disapproval in her fathers voice, a tear began to form in her eye. Nevertheless, her dad simply stood there waiting for a response with a stunned expression on his face. Anny opened her mouth and cautiously said, “I…I thought I could make it grow faster by stretching it out…just like mommy takes a small lump of dough and stretches it out to make a big pizza.”

David’s expression quickly changed as he began to see the logic that his daughter had used in this now somewhat humorous experiment. Trying to hold back his laughter, he said, “Oh Anny, don’t worry about it. I guess you learned your lesson, growing doesn’t work that way. We might not even get any broccoli from that plant now. You need to be patient, the Lord will make broccoli grow as fast as he wants it to.” Kneeling down by the hose, he handed it to Anny and they diligently finished watering the plants together.

Sun light streamed from the window onto a bowl full of broccoli sitting on a table. “Take the first piece Anny, you worked hard for it!” David announced to all those around the table.

Anny smiled and said, “yes sir!”

How many times do we find ourselves with the same impatience of Anny and her destroyed head of broccoli. Perhaps we haven’t destroyed much broccoli in our impatience, but how many relationships with people have we damaged or destroyed because we haven’t learned Anny’s lesson. Just like we can’t force broccoli to grow faster than what the Lord allows, neither can we force a person’s spiritual growth. We are incapable of making anything dead come alive or anything living grow. We can plant a seed and ask the Lord for germination. We can also water and ask for growth, but we never have control over the beginning of life or the growth of anything (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). When we become like Anny and try to take control of the growth of something or someone, we will probably see the same negative results.

Most of us are not intending to control others’ lives, but many times when distressed or fearful our reaction is to take the reigns of the Lord’s battle horse. We begin to dictate the necessity and timeline by which someone must arrive at our understanding, lifestyle, or outward actions. Herein, we are stretching the broccoli just like Anny. Peoples’ understanding, lifestyle, and outward actions are all ultimately heart issues. If we dictate and require these to change before the Lord has done an inward work, no matter how hard we pull on someone, they will not grow. In fact, if we pull too hard they will probably become like the ripped up piece of broccoli. Since most of us don’t want our loved ones to become like Anny’s broccoli, we must learn how to be patient and let the Lord do his work.

In our patience, there are a few things that we can do while the Lord is granting life and making someone grow. One of the most important is to pray. “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life…” (1John 5:16 ESV). Many times, nothing even needs to be said, but sometime, words can be useful. Nevertheless, “let no decaying word come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building others up according to their needs, in order that the ones hearing might be shown loving kindness” (Ephesians 4:29 Author’s Translation). At times, people need help to see what their life is portraying, but this must be done in a spirit of meekness and love (2 Timothy 2:25). This means that when we approach someone we must be: patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self seeking, not easily angered, not resentful, seeking truth, possessing a hopeful faith toward them, and bearing with them as long as they will bear with us (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

However, there are times, when we can no longer bear with someone, but this must be constituted by the scriptures and by the Spirit of God. God does not tolerate continual rebellion to His commands and those who walk in rebellion, are not to be tolerated by God’s people. Paul describes this rebellion as the following things: sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, ridiculing of others, getting drunk, cheating people out of money and possessions, divisiveness, and being unyieldingly inflated with one’s own brute-like thoughts (1 Corinthians 5:11, Titus 3:10, 2 Timothy 3:2-5). Things that do not fall within this category of rebellion are not grounds to justify impatience when growth appears slow within another person. Also, if someone does not profess to follow Christ, we are to continue laboring with them even if they practice the things listed above. Therefore we must learn to posses patient endurance with those we interact with in order to see God effectively work in their lives.

Patiently waiting on God to accomplish his divine work in a person’s heart demands that we don’t get in His way by requiring them to conform to our present understanding and practices when they don’t posses the inward conviction to do so. If someone does posses a different understanding and set of practices we must not divide to gather around others like ourselves and thereby spit on the pages of our bible as we read John 17. Rather, we must spur each other on to have faith in the love that our savior has for us without exalting extra things that can’t empower us to live a Spirit filled life (1 John 4:16, Heb 3:12-13, Romans 14:17-18). Certainly, we must walk under our own inner convictions, but let us focus our encouragement of others toward something that will always bring them to be filled with all the fullness of God.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19)