I was talking to a few aliens the other day–little green guys from outer space–trying to explain some earth-phenomena, since life in their galaxy is so different from ours.
First, a bit of background to explain what prompted the conversation.
Elena, our two-year old granddaughter, and I were exploring the church grounds across the street from her house. She loves looking for treasures: sticks, stones, acorns, leaves, etc.
On this particular day I noticed the oak trees sporting chubby little buds. Another pair of trees were bursting with bud-clusters, ready to explode into bright pink finery.
Elena and I inspected the juvenile growth. I tried to explain what would soon happen. But with no remembrance of last spring, her understanding was no doubt very limited. I might as well be explaining this to an alien, I thought.
That’s when my imagination kicked in.
What if inhabitants from another galaxy did come to visit Earth? And what if they had never seen buds or seeds before? Imagine trying to educate them on the process of germination…
“Now, inside this seed is the beginning of life. If we plant it in soil, making sure to choose a sunny spot, and we shower it with water when the weather doesn’t supply rain, it will grow into a plant, bush, or tree.”
They look at me with doubt in their big, round eyes.
“I know it seems impossible. The seed is just a small, lifeless speck. But I can tell you, having seen it happen repeatedly, that’s what seeds do.”
So the little green guys and I plant the seed in a sunny spot and shower it with water.
A few moments later, one of them wants to dig it up to see the first signs of life.
“Oh, no,” I explain. “It takes time for the water to seep into the seed and for the miracle of germination to take place. But believe me. If we come back in a week or ten days, there will be a little green shoot coming up out of the soil in that very spot.”
They like the idea of green, but shake their little round heads in disbelief.
I have to admit. The progression of tiny seeds to plants, much less tall trees, does sound ludicrous.
And yet that’s exactly what God does.
Sometimes our lives resemble brown, lifeless seeds. There is no sign of hope that circumstances might change for the better.
Sometimes we think it’s too late for a reversal of destiny. It seems our best, productive years are behind us.
Not so fast.
Consider George*, our friend who has retired. Twice. During his first career, George worked his way up in law enforcement to chief of police; his second career, associate pastor. Ten years or so later, he and his wife moved north to be near family. When the boxes were unpacked and the pictures hung on the walls, George sat down and thought, Now what? I’m not ready to park on the porch and drink iced tea. What can I do, Lord?
No immediate answer.
One day George went golfing with his brother-in-law. They were paired with two more men at the course, to make a foursome. One just happened to be a high-ranking officer on the police force. As George and Tom* became acquainted, Tom expressed how they needed a chaplain on the force to minister to the officers. Stress was high, their jobs becoming more and more difficult as the years passed.
George’s heart started beating faster. A chaplain to police? Could this be the answer to his prayer? It would almost be like a merger of his first two careers into one challenging and fulfilling third career.
Yes, it was. For the next five or six years, George served as chaplain of police in his new community, impacting hundreds of lives in the name of Jesus.
We’ve all known people whose circumstances looked as promising as brown, lifeless seeds. Yet God caused miraculous change, and the lives of those folks burgeoned into glorious fruitfulness.
We can learn like those little aliens of my imagination. We can feed our hope by feasting on the miraculous springtime evidence around us. We can wait with confident expectation for the fulfillment of God’s plan.
And if hope seems all but gone, we can cling to the Source of hope.
(“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”–Romans 15:13.)
*Names have been changed.