September is here! Oh where did the summertime go? I have had the pleasure of watching my dad become "Farmer Joe" this summer, planting his largest garden as of yet. It was quite impressive, I must say! The cucumbers and tomatoes were plentiful beyond count...which led to him canning "Joe's Pickles" for the first time, and boy, were they a hit! When our family went on vacation in June, low and behold, we returned to find a rabbit's nest in the yard. Not just in the yard- inside the garden gate that somehow had been left open by someone (oops)! And not just in the garden, but in the CARROT PATCH, for heaven's sakes! Of all places! Was this really happening? I felt like I was living in a Beatrix Potter book! Unbeknownst to Farmer Joe upon his return, they were cuddled and nested in the soil, covered by straw and leaves. As he was watering the carrots, those little bunnies squealed incessantly, crying in shock, until they were found out. What a surprise, indeed for both farmer and babies! Being the animal lover he is (a Bachelor's degree in Animal Science must serve for a good purpose now and then), he protected them and helped each one safely leave the garden once they grew up and out of the nest...
Oh the garden tales and summer stories abound, but one of my favorites is every time Farmer Joe tells someone about how to grow potatoes! My mind can't help but see the spiritual significance and sketch of the process! You see, most people just throw away their potatoes once they start sprouting those odd looking growths (you know...you left a few in your pantry too long and came to discover they morphed into funny looking creatures in the meantime!) Well, my dad decided to not throw his out a few months ago. You see, the potato that looks dead and useless is actually the very source from which tremendous new life and growth can come...Let me tell you a little about the fascinating process!
According to Farmer Joe, it's fairly easy...if one takes the time. So next time you have a potato going wild in your pantry and you think it is ready to kick the bucket, just think twice and you potentially have a feast of garden potatoes on your hands! Keep letting it sprout. Let it grow into its deformed, deceased-like state. Then simply cut it in two or more pieces (each section needs its own wild sprout) and bury it under 3 inches of soil. That crazy, useless, ugly looking "dead" potato buried in the ground will eventually produce and grow a whole bush of potatoes! When it first grows 6 inches high, cover it with 4 inches of soil again. Keep repeating the process, burying 2/3 of it every time it grows...and then eventually, it will send out shoots creating new potatoes. It seems like nothing is happening under the soil, but the whole time, life is bursting forth and a beautiful flowered bush is waiting to arrive! When that bush dies back, just dig down in the soil...what will you find? 10 pounds worth of potatoes all birthed from that one little sprout you started with!
Scripture is filled with oxymorons...one of the greatest being Jesus' statement in Matthew 10:39, "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." What in the world is going on in this verse? One cannot simply find and lose life simultaneously. Or is it possible? Jesus gives us a clue in John 3:3 when He tells Nicodemus in the night, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." So does a potato have to die and be buried 6 inches under for it to find it's life? Does it have to be born again to see the light of day? Are we a bit more like potatoes than we're comfortable to admit?
Another simple, stunning statement from Jesus is in John 12:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Ah, He could have just as easily been talking about potatoes here! The beautiful thing about rebirth in Christ, is that not only do we personally find new life, but we can bear much fruit for the Kingdom, and as Kingdom agents, we now sprout new life and hope in others, all through the Holy Spirit's power. We cannot be born again unless we die to self. We cannot truly find life until we lose it. We cannot bear fruit unless we fall to the earth, die, and through the mystery of God's universe, spring forth a new creation. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God," Colossians 3:3 tells us. Yes, death to self finds us alive in Christ and hidden (in that soil of new growth) with our Creator, ready to burst forth in all the purpose He has planted! "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day...Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 4:16, 5:17).
So next time you eat a potato, remember these lessons of life- true life hid in Christ, life lost to self yet gained and reborn through our Creator. Tremendous lessons from potatoes, indeed! And if you are really venturesome, maybe you'll attempt to grow your own potatoes, just like Farmer Joe!