Last fall, I had a yard full of pumpkin vines but no pumpkins in site. My daughter wanted to plant them in the spring, but we got them out late so we knew it was a race against the clock. The vines were sprawling. They invaded a good-sized chunk of our back yard but didn’t look like they were doing much more than killing the grass.
However, I’m an optimist at heart, and I love my daughter so I let it go through October. By the day before Halloween, though, I thought it was time to give up the ghost, so to speak. If the vines hadn’t produced anything by now, it was game over.
My daughter was disappointed to say the least. She’d put all that time into planting, watering and checking on them for months, and by October she was emotionally invested.
I had to explain to her it just wasn’t in the cards. We’d have to try to again next year.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I went out to chop down the vine and discovered the cutest little pumpkin you’ve ever seen hiding under the canopy of leaves. My daughter was ecstatic. We picked the pumpkin, cleaned it up and prominently displayed it on our front porch for all of our neighbors to see.
The growing process is funny like that. You may get a late start. You may not see much happening, and then, out of the blue, something springs to life.
It happens in your backyard and sometimes even in our own hearts. That’s why our spiritual growth can be the most frustrating process in the world. It’s easy to get excited in the planting season when your faith is new or you feel like God is breathing some fresh truth into your life.
This time everything’s going to be different, you think. This time you’re going to make some changes. And you try.
You pray. You read your Bible. Maybe you even go to church and do whatever you can think of to cultivate this new spiritual life that’s growing in your soul.
Then comes the waiting. Not much seems to be happening. Maybe like my family’s pumpkin patch, you got a late start. You may even be like I was, ready to chop down the vine and give up altogether.
But what’s easy to forget is that underneath the surface is where the real growth happens. God only knows how much progress we’re actually making, or rather that He is making in us, until one day, out of the blue, it blossoms, and bears fruit in the most unexpected places.
Galatians 5 gives us a whole list of things like love, joy, peace and patience that God may be growing in our lives right now even if we can’t yet see the change. But that’s okay. The Bible calls it the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of self improvement, not the fruit of gritty determination. The fruit of the Spirit. He is the One doing the growing. We are simply cooperating in the process.
So when you feel discouraged that you’re not making much progress in your spiritual life, remember my daughter’s last minute pumpkin harvest and remember that growth in the pumpkin patch and in the Spirit can be hard to measure.
For more inspirational thoughts about fall, check out Tales from the Leaf Pile: A Holiday Road Devotional, available October 2017. For updates on the Holiday Road devotional series and other books from Jason sign up here.