I can think of very few words saturated with more meaning than the word “cultivate.”
I spent my growing-up years as the youngest of five kids on a large farm and ranch in scenic northern Idaho. Springtime was spent moving cattle, putting up hay, hauling rocks and roguing weeds out of fields. Summer was spent working 14+ hour days harvesting those amber waves of grain about which we sing so proudly. Fall was spent celebrating the victory of harvest, regardless of the size of the crop, and preparing the ground for the next season. Somewhere in there we found time to camp, fish and explore the great outdoors, simply by stepping out our back door and into the forested playground that we were so blessed to call home. And my librarian mother always made sure we had a book in hand to expand our imaginations even further than the forests would push them.
It was just as idyllic as it sounds. Despite detesting the long hours of hard labor that were required of all of us kids to “keep the farm running” (or, more likely, to instill character), I think all of us kids would agree that we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
One of the many reasons I wouldn’t trade it: I learned the deep significance of cultivation.
I saw year in and year out the work that it took to grow a crop. The careful preparation of the ground. The sowing of seeds. The attention to the growing process to manage weeds and pests. The necessity of water and importance of the seasons. The gravity of the task of feeding both your neighbor and the world. The faith that God would provide the increase and the fortitude to return to the fields to plant another crop even if we didn’t see the increase the year (or years) prior.
The years on the farm instilled a deep appreciation for God’s miraculous and powerful hand in the growing process. It gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of seasons. I understood the devastation of losing a crop, only to return to sow again with faith that God’s promised “increase” may look different than you expect.
You might say God was cultivating in me an understanding of both beauty and hardship, and slowly revealing the meaning of faith.
Since leaving the farm and pursuing career, passions, community, calling, and a life away from that largely idyllic scene, I have found that God has continued to cultivate these lessons and values in my heart and in my life.
He’s continuing to deepen and broaden my understanding of who He is – a God of beauty, wonder, compassion, power, mystery, and victory – and who I am in Him – a child of God on an adventurous journey of faith.
Whether in Washington DC, Thailand, back on the farm in Idaho, or another plot of ground of God’s choosing.