As spring makes its entrance, many of our minds turn toward gardens and flower beds. I am a terrible gardener, but I keep trying. Last year, I planted eight tomato plants. They grew tall and lush. They were beautifully green and suffered none of the yellowing and spots that have plagued other plants in my care. I was so excited! I could imagine the amazing flavor of my homegrown, heirloom tomatoes. I would slice them and layer them with mayo on sandwiches, or maybe I would sprinkle a little salt and eat them on my front porch like I did with my dad when I was little. They would be red, juicy, and sweet.
Alas, I harvested one, mediocre tomato. I don’t know with certainty what went wrong. I would be lying if I even began listing the reasons for my failure, but I know one thing that my tomato-keeping lacked. As a gardener, I lacked consistency. I watered my tomatoes, sometimes. I weeded my raised bed, sometimes. I hoped it rained enough. I hoped my netting would hold up to the deer. I did not always take the actions required to have a thriving, bounteous crop of tomatoes (or anything else for that matter).
Do you ever feel that way in your devotional life? If you are anything like me, you go through seasons when you read God’s word occasionally. You seek out spiritual instruction from godly teachers sporadically. You consult valuable commentaries on scripture inconsistently. You are not alone, friends. Many of us seem to be hoping that God’s word will be imparted to us through osmosis as our Bibles sit on our nightstands, unopened and collecting dust. We hope that being in a church while someone is preaching will give us a big enough dose of truth to get us through the week. Maybe if we sit there enough times, we will be nourished and quenched. Maybe we will thrive, and hopefully, the weeds of sin will wither.
Sorry, fruit doesn’t grow like that—neither tomatoes nor spiritual fruit. My tomato plants looked healthy. They had enough nutrients and water to get along okay. However, they only had enough of what plants need to put their energy toward growing green leaves. They did not have adequate resources to put energy toward growing fruit. As a follower of Christ, you can probably appear okay on a bare minimum. You might glean enough inconsistent nourishment to trudge through a tough season. After all, God is holding you tightly and seeking after you with persistence when you stray (not unlike a parent hanging on to a toddler at the zoo). His love can sustain you through all kinds of trials.
Consistency is Key
Most of us do not want to simply appear alive. We want to live. We want to live in God’s presence, building toward a richer relationship and a more fruitful life for his glory. We don’t need perfection or greater intelligence or access to seminary-level courses every night of the week. We need consistency—consistent reading of the scriptures, consistent conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ who push us to grow and to learn. We need to take hold of even short segments of our days and devote them to growing in the Lord instead of the 101 other possible uses of our time.
I wouldn’t be the first wishful gardener who felt tempted by another fancy gadget or expensive plant food to solve my tomato problem. And I am well aware that the world is full of apps, cool journals, and Bible commentaries to try to solve the scripture-starved-Christian problem. These tools promise to make it easier to dig into God’s word and stay there. They may, indeed, be useful tools, but none of them will have the impact of simple consistency. For me, regular reminders to stop and sit for a time of devotions help establish a steady routine. I use alarms on my cell phone or Post It notes to signal a new habit. Sharing your plans with a spouse or friend can build useful accountability.
Beating ourselves up about shortcomings in our Bible study habits will not bring us any closer to the meaningful relationship with God that we desire, just as punishing myself for not tending my garden is not going to produce more crops. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder and push further in order to be good or valuable. Fortunately for us, God already knows our shortcomings, and a perfect record of daily devotions will not make us more worthy of his gift of salvation. Love is a greater motivator to create consistency than shame or other external reprimand will ever be. Desire God and then seek him in his word. He will meet you there.
Seeking a Harvest
If you are feeding yourself scripture on a consistent basis, fruit will grow. When you are filled up with the good nourishment of God-breathed truth, you will see the pesky weeds of sin and pluck those buggers right out. You and I will crave more of the Bible because time surrounded by God’s goodness whets our appetite for more of the same. Instead of the drive-by sprinkle of scripture at a short Sunday service, you will long to be doused in refreshing water from the source and linger in the flow.
My poor tomato plants got some watering because rain happened to fall. They had some food because the soil harbored some nutrients on its own. However, with consistency and intention, I probably could have helped them produce a respectable crop. I am challenging myself to consistency this summer in my gardening and in my devotional life. Will you? I’ll keep you posted.