Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Closet Door

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows though he does not know how” (Mark 4:27).

We probably should have painted the wooden frame around my son’s closet door.

Our house was on the market and the best wisdom about ‘staging’ said that personal items needed to be out of sight so that potential buyers could envision the home as their own. That was all well and good when it came to pictures on the refrigerator. But there was no way I was painting the door frame of John’s closet.

We had moved into the house in 2002. My son had just turned four and my daughter was few months shy of her third birthday. Not long after moving in we had started marking their height on the inside of the closet door. Over the years the right side of the door frame had become a kind of journal, recording the passing of time and the growth of my two children.

Each time we made a new entry on our door frame journal we would celebrate the growth, making comparisons to the last entry. We treated every inch like a personal achievement, shamelessly bragging on the kids for something over which they had no control. And while I celebrated and bragged on the outside I was often surprised and even a little sobered by what I saw. We would make a new mark on the door and I would silently wonder, “When did that happen?”

Growth is peculiar in that way. Even when expect it and know it’s happening, we don’t actually see it. We marvel as if it happened overnight. We know better. It was and is happening all the time, but it eludes our gaze. We live day to day unaware.

We eventually sold the house. I’m assuming the new owner painted the frame around that closet door. My son is now 15 and my daughter turns 14 this week. Marking their height inside the frame of a closet door stopped being fun a long time ago. But the growth hasn’t stopped, although now we see it in different ways. Growth these days can’t always be marked with a pencil.

In Jesus’ short parable about the growing seed, the earth produces growth, night and day, whether the farmer is wide awake or sound asleep. The seed sprouts and grows, the farmer “knows not how.” The growth of God’s kingdom, like the growth of a child or the emergence of a crop, is imperceptible. We know it’s happening, but knowledge is not awareness. We don’t see it. We can’t pull up a chair and watch it. God does this work in our sleeping and waking. We know not how.

Nevertheless, from time to time it’s good to put a mark on the door frame and see what God has done. In the image of the parable, we need to celebrate “the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” The sprout reminds us that growth may be imperceptible but it is not invisible.

How do you mark the work of the Spirit in your own life?

We give you thanks, O God, for the unseen ways you are at work around us and within us. Help us to be patient as you do your work in this world. Make us confident in the promise of a coming harvest. And as you will, grant us grace that we might see a sign of your faithfulness, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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