So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)
At times it is so easy to overestimate our own importance, particularly when it comes to the Kingdom of God. We get the feeling from time to time, or should I say we deceive ourselves into believing from time to time, that if we don't make things happen for God, them no one will. What a great reminder from Paul that God does very well on His own, thank you. We are not a necessity. Ours is not to make the seed, or person or church or whatever may be before us at the moment, grow. That is God's job, and done in God's time I might add. The salvation or growth of people is not something I can make happen no matter how hard I try. Ours is a much simpler task, to plant or to water...or in the case of some of the other parables, to scatter the seed. What happens from there is the important part and fortunately--or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it--the part we cannot control .
I planted some seeds by my front door at the beginning of the summer, hoping that one day they would turn into beautiful flowers. The container they came in warned me that nothing would likely come of the planting until the next spring or early summer, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to speed up the process. All I could do was to plant them and then consistently water the soil and let the soil, the seed, and the sunshine do its work. It was a slow and hidden process that would need to occur. And as I faithfully watered each day, I secretly hoped (but never told anyone) that somehow the flowers would miraculously appear any day. No Luck. Nothing. In fact, I became so impatient and so filled with doubt that there was anything really going on under the soil, that I was often tempted to dig them up just to see if, indeed, there was any growth taking place at all. Of course that would've been a ridiculous thing to do, and would certainly damage or delay the process, but I have to admit that I was tempted nonetheless.
But planting is just that way, there is a letting go that is a necessary part. There is a trust. There is a knowledge of our role...and God's. There is a patience necessary, as well as an attentiveness. But also, there is a lot of waiting. Waiting on the soil and the sun and the water and the seed to all do what they were made to do. You just can't make a lot happen. We can just work to make sure the conditions (the space, if you will) are right and make sure the seed is well planted--by means of conversation, relationship, writing, reading, or whatever your means of planting might be--and leave the rest to God...and to the waterer of course.
Watering is another proposition altogether. It's a little more involved. It's a little more constant. There is a little more attention necessary, and a little more work required over the long haul. Last summer I planted a flowerbed in my back yard, in a spot I love to sit and enjoy the silence and the beauty of God's creation. I made sure the flower bed was in a good spot for sun, and had good rich soil, but I didn't really think through the watering process. Actually, we don't even have a water supply to that part of the yard. Unless of course you use a hose, but in this case the flower bed was so far from a spigot that 3-4 hoses joined together wouldn't even reach it. I thought of running the water line out to that part of the yard. I thought of rain barrels. I even thought of trying to use the water produced by the condensation from my air conditioner. And after I shot all of those ideas entirely full of holes, I just decided to dip a bucket in the creek that runs along the back of our property line and do it by hand. So, every day of the summer I took my 10 gallon bucket, dipped it in the creek several times and watered my flowers. It was a pretty labor intensive process, especially when the dry season came.
It reminded me of Teresa of Avila and her thoughts on prayer as the way of watering the garden of our souls. She mentions that prayer comes in seasons: some when you must use a bucket and get it by hand, some when you use a waterwheel to help bring it from its source, some when you can water by means of a stream or brook where the water flows more freely and easily, and lastly when it comes from the rains of God's Spirit as it falls from the heavens and drenches and soaks the ground. Well, in my case, in absence of a waterwheel or irrigation system, my method was to continuously carry the water from the creek...and pray for rain. For most of the summer the bucket was a necessity, but O the joy for several weeks toward the end of the summer when the rains fell about every day (for at least some period of time). And on those days when it rained I rejoiced, and really began to understand what St. Teresa was talking about...rejoicing in those days and those seasons when God takes over and prayer just comes like rains from the heavens.
But now back to the point of the whole passage: So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. We should never take ourselves too seriously, or think of ourselves as too important in this process. In fact, we are nothing. We can produce nothing. Fruitfulness only comes from God. He is the One who makes things grow. Mine is to plant or to water, to pray and to pay attention, to trust and to wait. And watch what He does...and rejoice. Thanks be to God!!!