Some seasons of life can feel less than purposeful, with very little fruit to show for our efforts. In this article, Ronne Rock uses the example of the Proverbs 31 woman to illustrate how we can more effectively consider and cultivate our days, no matter what season we may find ourselves in.
I don’t know if you ascribe to the notion of a ‘word of the year’. But it’s been something that I’ve done now for almost a decade. This year’s word is gather.
It can easily conjure up images of dining room wall hangings and holiday memes on social media. But for me, contemplating what it means to gather has been a journey into definitions. Words like assemble, cultivate, and gain understanding come to mind.
But none of the definitions have been as impactful as this one: harvest.
Celebrating the Harvest
Our culture loves to celebrate the harvest. We measure it, applaud it, reward it, endorse it. Shelves are filled with books about how to achieve more in less time so we can then achieve even more. Volumes have been written about finding our purpose and calling. It all focuses on how much we can produce.
The “output equals achievement” model even finds its way into our churches. We laud the largest and fastest-growing, set attendance goals, and cheer the number of views on our sermon streams.
Living in a world that equates purpose with production can leave us feeling as though we’ll never produce enough. A society that amplifies the voices of those with the largest platforms and most followers can cast a long shadow on the way we view our own worth.
We feel whiplashed by confidence and comparison and condemnation. And even if we accomplish all that our calendars have set forth for us to do in a day, we still go to bed at night wondering if the work of our hands mattered at all.
PREPARING FOR THE HARVEST
Certainly, harvest time is a lovely thing. As Ecclesiastes 3:2 teaches us, there is “a time to plant and a time to harvest” (NLT).
The harvest comes in time. Only in time. It is only a moment in season upon season of glorious moments as the fruit bears its divine purpose. The harvest begins when we consider the field in which we stand, and let our feet sink deep into its soil.
“When you wish to be somewhere God hasn’t put you, you miss where He has you. Head down. Do what’s right in front of you. Love the people God’s given you. Don’t compare.
Don’t worry it isn’t enough. Trust where He has you right now. Today. If He needs you somewhere else, doing something else—tell Him you are willing and trust Him to let you know.” Jennie Allen
The Gardener and the Farmer
I’ve never met a gardener who doesn’t have grit under her nails, who doesn’t let her knees press into the dirt, who doesn’t watch the skies and peek under leaves and lean in to listen to the quiet voices of color and texture and flavor and fragrance.
I’ve never met a farmer who doesn’t know the condition of every field she is tending. She’ll go to battle to protect the life those fields carry or do the work necessary to let the fields bloom and grow. Farmers see their worth and value not in the size of the harvest. Rather they see the importance of shepherding the fields as they till and plant and tend and prune; protect and water and wait and rest.
Consider and Cultivate
Neither the gardener nor the farmer look at the soil under their feet and declare it worthless because it isn’t filled with blooms. No, instead, they consider the ground, and then cultivate it. They learn about its design and composition. Then they nurture that soil so that it may be life-giving. They let the soil tell them what fruit might be born from its depths and they labor with it. Then they step away from the labor and give that soil time to do its good work.
Gardeners and farmers don’t force a harvest. They know the bounty will come in its time, when it is beneficial for use. Both the gardener and the farmer know the true reward of the harvest is the life-giving story that will be born from the fruit that would not exist without the abiding and tending.
I love the way Proverbs 31:16 brings the patient and hopeful love of the gardener and farmer to life:
“She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”
Sense the Worth of Your Work
We’re not told if the woman who knelt to labor in those fields knew in advance how much they would yield. Nor are we told if she was guaranteed to see their harvest. Instead, we’re simply told that she considers those fields. She knows her investment in them will be fruitful as she cultivates them. The Message paraphrase goes on to say, “She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day” (Proverbs 31:18).
This woman senses the worth of her work as she gets those nails dirty and lets her feet sink deep in the soil.
Tiling, planting, tending, pruning, protecting, watering, waiting, resting.
She sees it all as fruitful.
CONSIDER THE FIELD
Consider means to contemplate, to think carefully about, to regard, bear in mind, make allowance for.
Today, take time to consider the field in which you are standing right now. It is easy to view distant “one day” and “if only” fields as desirable destinations. Inevitably, this leads us to discount our present days as fallow ground. But what might happen if we treated our home, our community, our business, our very own lives with the same regard as the Proverbs 31 woman? What if we set our heart upon the field in which we are standing, and labored there to plant the living vines?
Your field today might be the kids you are raising, or the soil that’s under your feet after they have flown from the nest. It may be a position you hold at a company, or the soil that’s waiting to be cultivated as you wonder if there is a place to use your gifts fully. Your field today may be friendship with a neighbor, ministry to the vulnerable, or simply taking the time to consider all that God has designed in and through you—and how you might reclaim that design in new ways for His glory.
CULTIVATE THE FIELD
See the ground on which you stand right now as purpose-full. Let your feet sink deep in the soil. Investigate its design and its composition as you cultivate that field. Discover the fruit that might be born from its depths, and nurture the soil so that it may be life-giving. Invest in worthy work. Then, step away to rest, so that the field may come to life in its time. Sense the worth of your work, for it is all fruitful.
Tilling, planting, tending, pruning, protecting, watering, waiting, resting.
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
God’s Purpose for You
God’s purpose isn’t that you do great things for Him.
It’s not a checklist or chore list.
His purpose is not your career or your calendar.
It’s not accolades or attagirls.
His purpose is you.
He designed you. He delights in you.
Made in His image, shaped by His hands YOU.
Love God. Take His hand. Take Him at His Word.
Fill the space He’s given you.
Live the days, delightful and devastating.
He’s got a lot of love to live through you.
What field are you standing in today? What steps could you take to start cultivating that soil?
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Enjoyed your writing and your thoughts very much! Thank you for tilling this ground!
Leslie, thank YOU for your encouragement!
Thank you. I will continue to live and cultivate the field God has me in right now.
I love this, Carolyn. I especially love your words, “I will continue to live and cultivate…” Both are beautiful things.
Before reading this, I was reading Ecclesiastes, and considering how cultivating the soul by giving thanks, surrender, choosing not to complain (while the temptation is still in the heart and mind), etc. are all character-forming choices, made mostly in the unseen realm between us and our Maker. The amazing thing about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, and many others is not THAT they suffered, it’s HOW they suffered. Their character was formed in the mundane, then tested in the furnace! And because of the steady soul-work that happened before the world collapsed around them, they stood approved and set an example to the rest of us, long after their ashes turned to ashes and their dust to dust!
“steady soul-work…” Space, yes to this! Thank you for sharing!
After 21 years away from professional life, I am on my first interview. God told me to apply for this job, so I am excited. To prepare, I am remaining grounded in God’s encouragement cuz I am a bit freaked out: Auntie Ronne, how will my 18, 18, and 20 year-olds going to survive without my hovering?! What? Just fine, you smile? I thought so too. ❤️
not going to, will
I see you smiling, Kara. xoxo