The sign shouting out what I had hoped and prayed for was growing right in front of me – and I almost missed it. Somewhere between the seeds being planted, our faithful watering and tending of the seedlings and the middle of a long, hot summer, I lost my focus and nearly missed the harvest.
The dusty farming village will always be part of me, along with the faces of friends who call it home, although it is now over a decade since we last visited. Tucked away in a far-flung region of SE Asia, this was our destination as we ventured out to explore the area on rented bicycles with our young children oh, so many years ago. We pedaled the lanes, smells so foreign to us either assaulting or enticing our senses, our eyes surely as big as saucers as the landscape of rice paddies looked to us like a Hollywood movie set. The locals, working in the fields, looked up and were, I imagine, as startled to see us as we were to see them, each wearing our own skin and hair color, not to mention the clothing of our native lands. We fell in love with this region and prayed fervently for it. At the time we had no way of knowing that within a few years we would be friends with many of the residents . No way of knowing just what our tears of intercession would cause to grow. Ever after, when we visited this nation we made a point to go this village, to check on, encourage and train local church leaders there. The people, the land matter to us and we tended it as well as we knew how.
These villagers, along with every other stop along our journey, served a dish of spicy cucumbers. To this day our mouths turn up in a smile and water when we think of those delectable cukes! In fact, Jim was so vocal about his love of this particular dish that on our last visit (though we didn’t realize at the time it was our last one – to date), the church members proudly presented him with a package of cucumber seeds so he could grow his own crop at home. We laughed together about it and many jokes went around about Jim growing cucumbers as we parted ways. Jim tossed the bag of seeds in his suitcase and apparently customs didn’t see them or didn’t care as they made it home with us.
Fast forward twelve years to the spring of 2019. Jim, organizing the garage following five moves in the past decade, came across this package of seeds. There were just a few still clinging to the bottom of the packet, which he took out and planted in the ground. Against all odds, we took a chance they would still produce cucumbers. These are the seeds which, having sprouted into seedlings, we watered and watched over this summer. And then, toward the middle of August, we became quite busy with lots of people and projects and the sun became so hot and we did well to remember to toss on a bit of water now and again. Frankly, cucumbers were not in the forefront of our minds and our expectation of harvest was pretty low. After all, we’ve planted fresh, new seeds developed for this climate in years past and nothing grew.
So I was shocked two weeks ago when, finally taking time to look and see what was happening, I found these beauties hiding underneath the leaves!
Some had grown down along the front side of the garden box, and others were small and still growing. The point is – they grew! There was life in the seeds, after all! And with some water, sun and even the smallest amount of attention from us, they have produced a good crop and continue to do so. We did our little bit and God brought an increase. But I had to turn aside, stop and look in order to not miss the harvest right in front of me. The way I see it, this is a lesson for navigating the mountains we face. A lesson taught long ago by God, Himself, to the prophet Jeremiah.
In the first verses of the book of Jeremiah we are given a glimpse into how God trained this young man to see and then say what he saw. We aren’t given a list of books he read or told the names of his teachers or schools attended. What we are told is simply this:
- God chose Jeremiah from the womb to be a voice to his nation.(Numerous Psalms say similar things about you.)
- His youth was no excuse for not speaking what he saw. (Pretty sure being advanced in years doesn’t get one off the hook, either.)
- God’s word in Jeremiah’s mouth would uproot and plant anew in the nations. (This sounds like an expected harvest, to me.)
We are then given a glimpse into how God taught Jeremiah that he could, in fact, see. Sometimes we are able to see much more than we realize until someone points it out to us, which is basically what God did for Jeremiah. In verse 11 God asked Jeremiah what he saw. Now apparently Jeremiah was standing near a grove of almond trees, so when God asked what he saw, he stated the obvious: “I see the branch of an almond tree.” Seriously, Jeremiah?! You’re having a discussion with and being quizzed by the God of the Universe and that’s the best you can do? You can surely embellish your statement to include color or bees buzzing around – anything to sound a bit wiser! Did you mean to sound so simple? This might have been my response to Jeremiah. I suspect had I been there I may have been a bit embarrassed for him and his overly simple response. (Which is just one of many good reasons I was not there.)
Yet that is not the response the Lord gives. He was excited at what Jeremiah said he saw and applauded, if you will, his keen skills of observation. “That’s right! From this, know I am watching over My word until it is accomplished.” (verse 12). Hmm. Maybe this seeing and saying isn’t as hard as it’s been made out to be. Maybe just simply seeing and saying is all He requires.
The Eternal once again spoke (v 13) and asked what Jeremiah saw. Now we don’t know how much time had lapsed here, or how many times Jeremiah had practiced his gift: “I see a lake! I see a goat! I see a bowl of hummus!” Yay!!!! Way to go, Jeremiah! You’re seeing and you’re saying what you see and that is how we all begin. And a little encouragement goes a long way. So when Jeremiah was asked the second time that is recorded, he saw something far larger, greater, and more significant. This seeing catapulted him into walking in his call. This ‘second seeing’ was not seen with his natural eyes but with the eyes of his spirit. And THIS was the seeing for which he was created. May I propose that it is also the seeing for which WE are created?
You see, I can look at these cucumbers and with my natural eyes see a salad waiting to be enjoyed. Or, I can look at them with spiritual vision and see the faces of our friends who gave the seeds. I can see us as a family walking the dusty paths of many villages, planting the seeds of kindness and the knowledge of the goodness of the Lord. And I can realize that, though we have not been on these pathways for many years, others have come along to water and tend, and seeds planted in good soil produce exponentially. I can ‘taste and see’ that the Lord is good. My faith is strengthened to believe for a great work of God in this region of the world – all because I see more than long, green cucumbers. I see His faithfulness.
In whatever field you find yourself this week, may you SEE as Jeremiah saw. May you speak out the life and truth that lies beyond your natural sight as you hone the greater gift that lies within – that of spiritual sight. The Lord is cheering you on – “Well done! You saw it and you said it! That’s right, keep going!” His Holy Spirit and I, in my own little way, am cheering you on to Love Yourself to Life as you turn aside and SEE what He is bringing increase to. Watch and see and you’ll find your harvest, even that which is hidden under the leaves. I know the summer has been hot and long for some of you: for others, the winter has been dreary and cold. Some of us planted seeds so long ago we aren’t sure if there is any life that still remains. Rub the sleep from your eyes and SEE! The fields of souls are truly ripe and ready. We WILL seize our moment and enjoy these days of harvest! The Lord of Harvest, Himself, will help us see and say what is true and brings Him pleasure. The harvest just ahead IS going to happen and it is going to be a great adventure, as we speak to the mountains that can intimidate and they move out of our way . I can see it now…
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