We moved into a house in the south part of the valley when we accepted the call to Utah. There was a garden area and it didn't matter what I did or did not do, that soil was fertile. It was like the octomom of gardens. I grew tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and berries. I thought I'd discovered my green thumb at long last.
A year into our lives here, we moved closer to the church and into a house with a big dirt patch in the yard. I thought my gardening skills would produce another fantastic bounty of vegetables. I was wrong. Dead wrong. The ground is hard and full of tiny rocks.
With tilling and adding good dirt and manure, I've succeeded in growing zucchini and green tomatoes. Each year a handful of tomatoes actually turn red and are generally snatched up by an obnoxious, albeit lovable, golden retriever.
A year ago, in May or June, I dug a hole and started a compost. Garrett thoroughly enjoyed throwing old veggies, egg shells, and rotten potatoes into the big hole. Last fall, as I was weeding, you can imagine my surprise when I yanked up potatoes. Our rotten composted potatoes had grown new ones. I'd done nothing. I hadn't specifically watered them. I hadn't planted them properly. They simply did what they do and we feasted on them. They were a little earthy tasting for my palate but they made delicious hash browns.
This year we bought really good soil and put it in an old plastic pool. We planted tomatoes and zucchini. It worked and we had squash throughout the summer. The tomatoes, once again, remain green until the precise moment when they turn red and the dog beats me to them. I wrapped the plant in a mesh material to keep him out. He figured out how to get to them anyway. His big dopey personality is just a ruse, I'm convinced.
I also planted potatoes.
The right way.
And I know about how deep I planted them and I know where I planted them.
Still, after digging and digging until my hands are blistered and my body hurts, I cannot find them anywhere. I've tried on two separate occasions. I talk to the ground, "I know you're here somewhere." I see the roots. I just never find a potato on the end. They keep going and going down into the ground. Much deeper than I planted them. I start out calm, cool and collected. "Come here, little potato." I end up sweaty and sore and yelling, "WHERE ARE YOU? I LEFT YOU RIGHT HERE!" Very likely I am now known as the neighborhood crazy pants who digs holes for no reason and talks to the dirt.
I'd been at it for over an hour today when I finally gave up.
"There's got to be a practical application for this," I thought to myself as I stood over a whole in the ground in frustration. Last year I did nothing and reaped a harvest of potatoes. This year, nothing. At least nothing I can find.
I thought about how it's like that with people. Sometimes you hand someone an invitation for her kids to come to Vacation Bible School and a month later she starts coming to church, never misses a Sunday and six months later accepts the Lord as her personal Savior. That's like throwing a potato into a compost pile. Although it's probably ridiculous that I'm comparing eternal salvation to a bunch of rotting vegetables.
Sometimes you diligently plant and water and wonder and there is nothing to show for it at harvest time. At least not that you can see. They may not be there. The work may be in vain. But then again, they could be trapped down in the hard clay-like soil. They might need you to dig deeper, search harder, blister bigger. You could dig and dig and never find them. Or you could discover that they were always there, waiting for their harvest.
I pictured Jesus standing over the garden, dirty and calloused. Not willing to give up. Not willing to leave good (even if earthy) potatoes behind. And I am thankful that he digs for us and picks through the rocks and the weeds until he finds us.
I had to give up on the potatoes because I needed to pick my oldest up from school. I'm okay with that because, in this case, it really is just about a few potatoes that taste slightly like dirt. But the application was there. And the blisters are worth the journey.