Earlier this year, I planted a garden in the transition time between spring and summer. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the fact that it was in my parents backyard meant that there would be little to no daily work for me (clever of me, I know). In one of the sections of the garden, I planted what I thought were going to be normal fat tomatoes. But no. Some prankster had put a grape tomato starter in the wrong section at the store and I, being the trusting human being that I am, of course inadvertently chose that one.
Fast forward to now, where those tiny tomatoes have taken over the entire garden. Tendrils are everywhere, tomatoes are everywhere, I spent what felt like an hour harvesting a few handfuls and walked away from millions more. Have you ever tried to pick grape tomatoes? They grow in these clusters that you have to untangle just so you can get anything usable. And then, there will inevitably only be two in the bunch that are ripe so you have to drop the other 85 back into the mess, knowing that you’ll have to come back to them sooner or later.
Harvesting grape tomatoes is a never-ending, mostly thankless task. As, I think it’s safe to say, are a lot of ministry jobs (oh, you liked that segue? there’s more where that came from).
There are times when I wonder what it would be like to have a job that ends at a certain time and that I don’t think about constantly when I’m not there. And I often feel like a crazy mess as I try to remember which people I need to talk to about what. Or people come in with co-occurring issues and it’s tough to know what to address first.
And then, I think I have a handle on something, or I finally start to understand where someone is coming from…and then bam! Something blindsides me. Similar to those masses of teeny tomatoes hiding under the grass (or the box that the garden’s planted in, or other plants, or…you get the idea).
In those times of being caught off guard, I have to remind myself that there’s a learning curve for everything, whether it’s counseling or listening or gardening. And sometimes results from those are slow to reveal themselves, and I spend a lot of time reminding myself that God’s timing and my timing are drastically different. But even when I’m frustrated, I am rarely disappointed. And the only reason that’s possible is that I can look back at the ways that the Lord has been faithful, and know that He cuts a swath through our untended overgrown ways of thinking and shows us where the truth is hiding.