(A Lot Of Spiritual Growth Is Invisible)
Are you familiar with the Chinese bamboo tree? This fascinating plant grows to a height of ninety feet and can be used for everything from home construction to furniture, from paper to pipes. It also has a very unusual growth pattern. It takes five years for a bamboo seed to sprout, but once it does, that tiny sprout reaches its full height in only six weeks—almost overnight! During those first five years, the farmer must water the seed every single day, all the while never seeing any growth. You can imagine an inexperienced farmer wondering if anything will ever happen. He might even give up.
Just as with the bamboo tree, the same is true both in the kingdom of God and in our own spiritual life: the most important growth is invisible. In today’s Gospel parable, the farmer plants a seed. But that seed doesn’t become a plant overnight. It takes the right combination of soil, water, and, the most important ingredient, God’s grace, to turn that seed into the “largest of plants” (Mark 4:32). In the end, it looks awfully impressive, but most of the work has already happened underground!
This is the encouraging message in the Gospel: God is always working beneath the surface. He is always providing the nourishment of his grace so that we can grow and blossom. Yes, we need to cooperate with that grace, but like the bamboo tree, the growth that we experience will far outstrip the effort we put into it.
Because most of God’s important work happens unnoticed, we should be careful to water that seed of faith even when we don’t see impressive results right away. We can trust that God will bring the growth in his time and in his fashion.
So imagine yourself as that bamboo farmer. Every time you pray, you’re going to the well to get water. Every time you repent, you’re improving the soil. You may not be seeing or feeling much growth right now. But every day that you come to Jesus, growth is occurring. God is making you holy. One day you, too, will stand tall with the saints.
“Lord, I trust you to bring about my growth. Help me cooperate with your work of grace.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)