By Tim Reeves
As just about everyone reading this magazine knows, it’s been a tough year to try and grow anything in Ohio. Patience has been more than a desired virtue; it’s been a way of life. Someone once said patience is the ability to throttle your engine when you feel like stripping your gears. We’ve experienced a great deal of “throttling” this year, haven’t we?
My experience with patiently trying to grow something centered around grass, and I’m talking the legal kind of grass, even though over the past year, Logan County has had more than its share of the illegal kind of grass.
We moved to a different parsonage last year when we were appointed to a different church, and the lawn immediately behind the parsonage was a mess. It appeared that when the house was built, the builders simply backfilled around the rear foundation, not paying any attention to the type of soil or what was in it when they leveled the ground. It was a mix of topsoil, subsoil, along with an abundant and unhealthy amount of east Logan County clay, plus more rocks and stones than a gravel pit. No self-respecting plant wanted to make this area home.
I tested the soil and found it was pretty sour and poorly fertilized. So earlier this spring, I spread both lime and fertilizer. After letting those settle, I also added a layer of topsoil graciously provided by a neighbor. Then I undertook to till the ground.
I knew the tilling would be rough. Our Logan County clay is very stubborn (mulish and obstinate would be more appropriate descriptions!) and I believe it is a close cousin to cement; bad when it’s wet and even worse when it’s dry. The first roto-tiller broke before the job was done. The drive belt twisted and then flew into pieces trying to work through the clay soil. So I borrowed another tiller and finished the job, but not before I’d also thrown my back out, even with a rear-tine tiller.
Eventually, the seed bed was ready, grass seed was spread and a layer of straw covered the good-looking new seed bed. Then I started a twice-a-day watering regimen, faithfully in the morning and evening.
For a week, I watered and watched, watered and watched. Nothing showed, not even a weed. The seed bag said expect to see growth in five days. After five days, I was getting anxious. It took nearly eight days for the seed to germinate and now, after 10 days, the grass is prolific. I learned a lesson in patience.
That lesson is nothing, though, like the Chinese and their bamboo. They plant the bamboo seed, faithfully water and fertilize it the first year and nothing happens. The second, third, fourth and fifth years, they continue to faithfully water and fertilize the bamboo seeds. The sixth year, they faithfully water and fertilize and will only then see the first faint signs of growth. Then, during the course of that sixth year, in a period of approximately six weeks, the Chinese bamboo tree will grow about 90 feet.
Did it grow 90 feet in six weeks or did it grow 90 feet in six years? I think we’d all agree it was a six-year growing period because if that seed had not been faithfully and patiently watered, fertilized and tended for all those years prior to when the tree actually started growing, it would not have grown an inch in the sixth year.
Unlike the Chinese, we Americans tend to be very un-patient in our thinking. Americans are a very patience-less and patience-challenged culture. I even heard one of the church youth last week remark on how something was out of date because “it was, like, so yesterday!”
The late President Richard Nixon had a great analysis of this mindset difference when he said this: “As Americans, we have many great strengths, but one of our weaknesses is impatience. The Russians think in terms of decades, the Chinese in terms of centuries. Americans think in terms of years, months and even days. If, in the quest for a realistic, lasting peace, we expect overnight success and instant gratification, we are bound to be disappointed.”
In the Bible, Galatians, chapter 5 reminds us that patience is one of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these are companion pieces in the great picture puzzle of life, which we could call contentment.
Likewise, instant gratification is not all that it’s cracked up to be. The trouble for most Americans, particularly young people, is that they want to get to the promised land without going through the wilderness. Nothing worthwhile or long-lived ever happens in a hurry anyway. Sure, sometimes we’ll experience a fleeting moment of joy, but that’s just what it is: fleeting and ephemeral. Because our American culture, unlike the Chinese culture, has become so far removed from our agricultural roots, we have forgotten that we can’t reap and sow in the same day. You can accomplish just about anything if you have patience; you can even carry water in a sieve if you wait until it freezes.
That lesson has been demonstrated by our patient Ohio farmers this year. For many, 2011 marked the latest they’ve ever planted corn in their lifetime and greatly strained their patience, yet the crop service reports we planted a record number of acres. And even as late as the planting was, drive around the state and you can see some beautiful corn and soybean fields. Sure, there are disasters, but as I write this month’s column in late June, I’ve seen fields in our area with corn more than chest high, and completely filled-in soybean fields.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that the One who holds the world in His hands has an entirely different concept of time than we do. God counsels us to have patience and wait upon the Lord not just as an attractive saying but as a way of living.