Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.
I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.
I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.
If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.
I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.
What I should have told them was:
“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”
Let me explain.
I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”
Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.
But you know what…
Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.
I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.
Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.
And so I planted a strawberry patch.
I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.
It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.
Look at this bounty –
Then, God called us away.
He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:
Will they like me?
Will they want me?
When will they get tired of me?
I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work. Sometimes it seems other people who want to be all-in are scarce.
Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.
Give your whole heart.
No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.
Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)