The fall harvest in our village. It’s almost time for them to harvest the corn again! And for a few weeks, our roads will become corn drying fields.
I’ve been thinking about seeds lately.
Thinking that they are small and insignificant. They can easily be forgotten, swept away in a pile of dust. They don’t look like much; unless you’re a seed expert, you probably don’t know what kind of capacity for life they have. Will it have flowers or bear fruit? Will it smell good or will it be good to eat? It’s a mystery until there’s some growth.
I’ve also been thinking about sowers lately.
It isn’t a glamorous job. Here in China, seeds are planted by hand… hours in the hot sun, poking one small seed at a time into the soil. There’s a lot of work that has to be done before the seed can even go in the ground. They have to break up the soil and make a furrow. It can be backbreaking work. And they get really dirty… lots of dirt underneath their fingernails. I hate dirt under my fingernails.
I’ve been wishing that Luke 13:18 read a bit differently. I’ve been wishing it talked less about tiny, insignificant seeds and more about grand, big things.
Because in the last couple of weeks, Jacob and I have been talking more and more about the reality that our purpose here boils down to one thing: Seed Sowers.
Tiny and insignificant seeds stuck in the ground with grubby and sometimes clumsy fingers. Not exactly the kind of job description I imagined while growing up.
I’m learning that the hardest thing for me about being a seed sower in this season of my life is how insubstantial it feels. We just got back from a trip to the states, where we were frequently asked, “What do you do in China?”
And what do we say? Sometimes we get the answer right, but more often than not, we say things like: I manage the organization’s IT needs. Or maybe I write stories for the foster home. To be honest, it is hard to connect the little and sometimes trivial things we do for eight hours a day with the big picture of why we’re here, because if he wanted, Jacob could fix computers in the USA, and I can write stories from anywhere. And even though that’s what we do, that’s not really why we’re in China.
So what’s the right answer? The reason we’re here has less to do with what we do and more to do with who we are. We’re in China because, for this season of our life, we feel called to sow seeds of love in the lives of the people here. What do you do in China? We try to love people. But when we say that, sometimes in our own heads – where we desire to hear ourselves saying that we do something where success can be measured, quantified, and evaluated – we hear “We’re bumming around in China and spending too long talking with friends after our lunch hour.”
Because sometimes sowing seeds feels like you aren’t doing anything at all.
I once heard a pastor tell this story… a man was walking along a road and saw three brick layers hard at work. He asked the first man, “What are you doing?” The man said, “I’m laying bricks.” When posed with the same question, the second man replied, “I’m building a wall.” The third man answered the same question with a big visioned answer, “I’m building a cathedral.”
When we reduce our purpose for being here to the job description that we have, we become brick-layers instead of cathedral builders. We deny the power of a tiny seed. We underestimate the plans of a big God.
And I’m pretty sure we’re not the only ones with a crisis of vision. I can’t count the times I’ve heard women say, I’m just a mom.
We’re back in China after a refreshing trip home and we have a renewed sense of purpose for being here. My mini-goal for the next 6 months is to develop and cling to a vision that is bigger than a job. Because a job – even one at a foster home in China – can get tedious at times and overwhelming at others, and my contentment is so much more fickle when it is tied to my emotional satisfaction with a job. Clinging to it as a source of my identity and purpose leaves my soul a little impoverished. And I know that no matter where we’re planted, our purpose and vision should always remain the same, so even if this season of our lives were to end and we were to go back to the USA sometime, we would still need to live for a vision bigger than the daily mundane.
But to believe in a Kingdom-sized (big!) vision, we have to believe in the power of tiny seeds. And we need to faithfully and unashamedly sow them, trusting that God will bring fruit at the appropriate time and in the appropriate season. We have to change our definition and standards of success, and we have to believe that cathedrals can grow out of the tiniest seeds.