Every student in Mr. Palmer’s fourth-grade class nestled a dried bean into a Dixie cup of dirt. Instructions were precise: one inch below the surface of #4 soil mix; water it, but not too much; keep it room temperature. Watch for a sprout.
I was one of those students. For the two longest weeks of my young life, I watched. I checked. Each time, I hoped to see a speck of green emerging. Was it dead? Did I water too much? Not enough?
Finally a tiny green eye peeked out of the soil. It was like the magic tricks I’d seen on TV where a scarf put in a cup came out a live chick, or my brother Bill’s caterpillars that turned into Monarch butterflies.
When the first green appeared, my responsibilities intensified. Six to eight hours of sun per day. No hot air on it. Keep cat from eating it. Keep the soil moist.
The sprout grew fast, as if making up for lost time. There was more green every time I looked, but no matter how long I gazed without blinking, I could never catch it growing. When the embryonic leaves, like plant baby-teeth, fanned out to make way for the first “true” leaves, this budding gardener marveled at the object of her care. I would do anything to protect it. I would never let it starve or dry out! How proud I would be to harvest a crop of beans this summer!
I remembered all this when my friend Max told me that her daughter’s class is sprouting pumpkin seeds – complete with intricate directions and the hopes of producing a pumpkin come fall. And I wondered why we sometimes take better care of seeds – or anything else — than we do of ourselves.
Six hours of sunshine. Hmmm – what would that be for us? Prayer is like sunshine that clarifies our intentions. It disinfects our negative thoughts so we can bring generous love to everything we do. If we stand in the shadows, our ability to love pales, like yellowing leaves. We’d never let that happen to a seedling!
Seedlings need water – a sense of wonder is refreshing like water. Looking with new eyes makes the world seem bigger and us feel freer. Do we go from project to project without stopping to see how ridiculously glorious the May flowers are? Or let ourselves be startled by a cardinal in bright new grass?
Good soil – surrounding ourselves with people, books, and pastimes that nourish our hope and joy so we can nourish others. Is our recreation restorative or does our entertainment just make us more restless?
Not too hot or too cold – do we choose enough cooling silence amidst our heated activity to keep from spiritually wilting? A plant registers stress when the temperature is extreme – we do, too.
Sometimes we don’t have the sense of a nine-year-old taking care of a seed. Let’s resolve to nourish our souls in the sunshine of God’s love and drink in the joy it brings. As the seedling depends on the fourth-grader, we depend on God (who is infinitely more reliable). Max has a sign on her bathroom mirror: “Good morning. This is God. I’ll be handling all your problems today. I will not require your help. So relax and enjoy.”