Cultivate: to foster the growth of
Matthew 13 tells the Parable of the Sower. Essentially, we find seed scatterd on four different places:
* the path where the birds come and eat it
* rocky soil where it springs up quickly but is scorched and withers because the sun comes up and it has no roots
* among the thorns which chokes it
* good soil where it produces a crop
My personal belief is that at any point in time, our hearts where God plants His Word with the intent of bringing forth a harvest, has all four. I believe this because some things sprout beautifully, some start but lose their steam, some are received quickly (like at church) but die on the way home because of any number of reasons, and some go in one ear and out the other before they are even given a chance.
Now, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. I don't know how many times I have read that verse. The first time I do remember that it gave me great comfort to realize that I could not control how much growth I saw because I can't control it. However yesterday, because I am always late to the party, I realized that not being able to control the growth is not cause to abdicate my responsibility to plant and water.
We have a choice about the environment we put ourself in. We can choose to focus on social media for 17 hours a day and remind ourselves of how short we fall comparitively to everyone else's highlight reel. We can stand in the grocery checkout line and search every magazine headline that claims we can have the perfect body, the most enviable relationships, and the glamorous career and satisfying home life, and then feel horrible about ourselves when we follow said plan and come up short. We could do those things. I wouldn't suggest them, but we could.
Or we can make much better use of our time.
For as much as I've reminded us about Romans 12:2 and the renewing of our minds, it never once crossed my mind that we can intentionally cultivate our minds. We can choose to focus on the truths we know we most need. If we are feeling unloved, we can focus on Scripture references that are evidence of God's love. The same could be said if we are feeling defeated. We can focus on Scripture that reminds us that we are overcomers and conquerors in Christ. But maybe you knew that.
Yet, I now see there is more we can do. Yesterday I was challenged with a question to write out Galatians 5:22-23. You know, the fruit verse. And then the challenge was given: meditate on what it looks like to cultivate this fruit in your personal life. (FYI, if you have not checked out She is Free by Andi Andrew, just do it. It's challenging, but boy is it good.)
So I thought about the Parable of the Sower, the fact that I have abdicated my responsibility to encourage growth, and realized, I can cultivate the environment where fruit would grow by focusing on Scripture that reminds me personally of what the fruit means to me.
For the sake of time, I'm not going to share all nine, but I will highlight a few as examples.
Joy: Nehemiah 8:10 the joy of the Lord is my strength; I chose this because right now, nothing will cultivate joy in my life more than knowing I am following God's direction. Additionally, knowing that He loves me regardless but honestly is rejoicing over me with singing as I follow His lead, is going to give me strength to keep going when it's hard and put me back on track when I'm tempted to or actually do fall off.
Patience: Joshua 21:45 not one of all the Lord's good promises to Israel failed; talk about a lesson in patience. Focusing on the truth that what He promises comes to pass, even if it takes a long time, will certainly help cultivate patience.
Self Control: Ephesians 5:16 making the most of every opportunity; let's be honest, it's easy to not do anything when you only have 10 minutes and can't finish. But 10 minutes is more than enough time to pray, read something encouraging, or do something to encourage someone else. As much as I have loved Freeflow (don't look at that app, just don't) and Angry Birds (long time ago), they did nothing for me except take my time.
I might not be able to determine how much yield I will get, but I can absolute take ownership of the fact that I can encourage growth by planting and watering what I know is God's will. And ultimately He will be the one to make it grow, but I can either cooperate or stand in His way. Guess which one I'm going to choose.
Until yesterday I truly never thought I had a choice in the matter. But that's a lie. I do. I may not have the authority to make it be what I want, but I do not have to sit on the sidelines and wait for something to miraculously appear either. And aside from three I listed, there are six other pretty significant fruits that I realized I can do something to foster their growth.
One of my favorite parts of the movie Facing the Giants is when Mr. Bridges goes to see Grant Taylor and tells him the story of two farmers who desperately needed rain but only one prepared his fields. He then asked Grant which one he thought believed the Lord would send the rain. Of course he answered the one who prepared his fields. And then Mr. Bridges asked him which one he was. We might not be able to predict when the rain will come, but we can certainly prepare our fields to receive it. And if we do, a harvest is sure to follow.