Tending the Garden by Steve Bezner

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.—James 5:7

I haven’t written much lately. I didn’t write much in 2021, to be honest. The reasons could be myriad; there certainly was a lot happening. But, if I’m honest, I was quiet for a season because I had a sense that I needed to be.
As the world emerged from lockdowns and mask mandates, I had a great deal I wanted to say, but I sensed the Lord’s continued hand holding me back. Something inside of me urged me to observe more and to speak less in 2021. I suppose in today’s world, we are, in some way, always pushed to speak more, to put our thoughts out there. In my profession, there is a sense in which pastors are now asked to be “thought leaders” on the latest controversy du jour, and, while I certainly have no problems applying my own faith to whatever is happening in the world, I find that—over time—constantly commenting on controversy is a rather discombobulating practice. It’s not the world doesn’t need such reminders; we absolutely do. I simply don’t want to slide from being a pastor into a cultural critic. Plenty of pastors have already taken that journey and, in my estimation, it isn’t always a good move.
But I digress.

I sensed the need to stay quiet, so I did. I read more than I normally do, choosing to watch less television (and, if I’m honest, work out less) so that I could get quiet. I took a lengthy sabbatical (two months out of the office and almost three months out of the pulpit), and I spent time simply reflecting and asking some questions;
  • Who is it that God has uniquely made me to be?
  • What is it that God has uniquely asked me to do?
  • What is it that God is asking of our church in this specific season?
  • How would we go about becoming such a church?

In the end, I found the answers to those questions in greater engagement and discovery of the physical world, particularly in nature. I watched a lot of birds (unsurprising). I tried my hand at gardening (much more surprising). I went on more walks. I cooked more (absolutely unsurprising). I noticed that the vast majority of the world has a distinct pace—distinct rhythms—and that pace is much slower than that of mine.
I like to hurry, because I like to “get things done.” This is a good thing, I think. Productivity is necessary. But I think that my “getting things done” attitude often runs counter to what the Lord has asked me to do and to be, particularly when it comes to my knowledge of Him. I have discovered that there is a difference between being busy and being hurried, and I am convinced that hurry is what often causes my problems. There is nothing wrong with having a great deal to do. There is, however, something that happens to the soul (my soul, for sure) when I am so hurried that I stop noticing the pace of the world. Creation is busy. But it is not hurried.

Those questions, then, were answered in ways that I did not expect. I was looking to find a specific task that might better define me. Instead, I began to discover that I want to be the sort of person who is moving at the pace of Creation and discovering the Lord’s work in the process.
For me, that means patience. I need to be regimented and repetitive in certain things, because those create a better pace for me to take care of myself, and to hear from the Lord. I need to wake in the mornings, sip coffee, read my Bible, and pray. I need to go on walks and listen to the birds. I need to exercise. I need to do the annoyingly detailed skin-care routine my dermatologist has asked me to do in order to prevent more pre-cancerous spots. I need to map out my days with intentionality. I need to build in margin. I need to spend enough time on my sermons that they are good. I need to spend time with people in my church over coffee (yes, coffee gets two mentions). I need to watch less television and scroll less on my phone in the evenings and instead spend time reading and cultivating something connected to the physical world.

If I build healthier rhythms, in time, the fruits come. But they come at the pace of Creation, not at the pace of Hustle. Hustle is a fine thing, in its place. I’m a massive believer in working hard. But I flatly reject the notion of “no days off” (Sabbath is good), and I believe that too much “grinding” will actually grind away our humanity. The harvest comes after the rain, and only God sends the rain. I plant seeds, and I wait.
I want to be better at planting and waiting. I think that will make me a better pastor, but, honestly, I also think it will make me a better human. I think it will probably make you a better human, too.

In 2022, I’m choosing “patience” as the guiding word for my year, because I want to be patient with myself and to learn (re-learn?) to trust the pace at which the Lord works. James 5:7 spoke to me this morning along these very lines: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” I want to be the farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, whether that be in my own life or in my family or in my marriage or in my church or in something I have yet to even discover.

Right now, all the gurus of fitness and productivity are lining up, encouraging you to start fresh, to do more, to be better. And the Lord knows I need their help. I need better health and more organization.
And yet, I hope you will pause on the Hustle and Grind for a moment and choose also the Tending and the Waiting.

I hope you will move at the pace of Creation in 2022. Hustle and Grind when you have to. But also choose patience and waiting. I see in Scripture that is when the Lord does His best work. And when the fruit comes.

Here’s to waiting.