This article was originally published by The Mennonite

A 12-year-old surprised by goodness

“You’ll feel better,” they promised. “It’s a life-giving spiritual discipline,” they insisted.

Some things take way, way more time than we expect them to.

Late last summer, I planted spinach seeds, hoping for a fall crop. Nothing came up. I figured the seeds were kaput, set aside my hopes for late summer salads and quiches and stopped watering.

Come January, during a brief warm spell and after rains and snows had fallen on my little plot, the first slender leaves of spinach emerged from those rugged little seeds. In spite of my earlier neglect, by April I had a bumper crop of spinach to enjoy.

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. … Other seeds fell on
good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13:3b-4, 8-9).

Jesus interprets this parable for his disciples, explaining that the seed that sprouts is “the one who hears the word [of the kingdom] and understands it” and bears fruit. The hundredfold and sixtyfold and thirtyfold harvest is sometimes surprising to the sower, just as the unsprouted seed is dismaying.

I asked my 12-year-old daughter to tell me about a time when she was surprised by goodness sprouting in her life:

I was surprised when you and I were heading home from Wichita [Kan.] one day last fall, and we ended up getting our dog, Coco. We hadn’t planned on getting our dog on this day exactly, but we stopped by the Humane Society and ended up taking her home.Yes, we had been looking for a dog for a while, but I had been so sure that it would take longer than it did to get a dog. When you told me we were getting her, half of me didn’t believe you. It was a good feeling to finally have a companion to snuggle and talk to, even though she wouldn’t talk back.

We were both excited to have a dog in our home finally, after so much time preparing for one.

My daughter had been asking for a dog for more than two years—since she first came to live with me at age 9.

I asked her: How do you explain unexpected goodness like this?

I think unexpected good things happen in life even if you don’t deserve it because we all need a treat every once in a while. No matter who you are, how you act, how your life is, everyone deserves to live at least one little moment in happiness. Good things can happen as a coincidence, on purpose or just as a surprise. A good thing can happen on purpose if someone who loves and cares for you plans to make you happy as best as they can. A coincidence?

Well, coincidences happen off and on; they are just part of life, some bad, some good “Let anyone with ears listen!”

Resurrection happens even when we don’t deserve it, even when we’ve stopped watering the seeds and watching for life to sprout. Sometimes, someone who loves and cares for us makes an effort on our behalf, tending the soil of our lives for us.

That’s Jesus, tending our lives with patience and mercy.

Resurrection happens even when we’re no longer expecting it or looking for it—in the middle of summer or winter, surprising us with untimely green growth.

We are all in the sowing business in one form or another, planting “seeds of the kingdom” when and where we can. And Christ is sowing those seeds in us, too. I try to plant seeds of prayer and parenting and pastoring but often wonder if anything will ever spring out of them.

Unless I remind myself of past bountiful harvests, I lose interest and faith in sowing those seeds day after day, year after year. I give up, neglecting to water the seeds after my patience has run out or my attention has wandered to another task. If nothing will ever emerge from the soil, why bother? And yet.

And yet God is good and has planted within and around us “the word of the kingdom” to bear fruit and to yield a hundredfold.

Sara Dick is pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan. This ran as a Grace & Truth column in the June issue. 

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