One day he came across a ravaged land. It looked like a land that held promise, but, it was wild with briars, thorns and thistles. There were even rocks, pebbles and stones strewn across. It looked as if some enemy had deliberately compromised the land so that it wouldn’t produce anything. The traveler was, however, a man who loved the soil. All his agrarian instincts came alive. He checked under the surface of the rock-strewn land and he was right. There was rich top-soil under a small portion of land. This could produce something fruitful. No, something abundantly fruitful. There was incredible potential!
Yet, he was a traveler. He was in a dilemma. He had many places to go! Could he jeopardize his carefully made travel plan? Is it worth the time and effort to reclaim this small portion of land? Should he ask someone else to handle it? Would someone else give that dedication, commitment and love to make this place a land of blessing? His love for the land, finally overcame all his other priorities and concern. His Master, he remembered, left the 99 sheep in the pen to seek the single one that was lost. Yes, in his heart it was clear – small things matter. So, he decided to labor. Alone. Spend time. Take the risk.
So, he labored patiently. Kindly. Gently. Lovingly, from moments of exhilaration and expectation to moments of pain and bewilderment. First, removing all the briars, the thistles and the thorns. Then, painstakingly on his knees he removed each and every pebble and stone. Those huge rocks he could not budge but, he heaved them inch by inch until they were out of the land. Then he tilled the soil and made it soft so that it could nurture any kind of good seed.
His back was aching from the hours of labor. His hands were bruised. His knees were bleeding. His feet pierced with thorns. He knew that it was all nothing, that his Savior had done far more. And above all his heart was expectant. But now, he was in another dilemma. What seed or seeds must he plant? After long deliberation he decided to plant a fig seed. This could grow into a mighty tree. Provide rest to every weary traveler, even to him if he would pass again. Provide fruit to eat. Provide shade for coolness. Provide nests for beautiful birds to sing their sweet, sweet songs.
So, he planted the seed. He tended it, until it began to sprout. The rains were also coming. He could get the fresh, musty, smell of rain on thirsty soil somewhere nearby. He knew that, now, the rain would take care of the rest. Certainly, God would watch over it.
He packed his meager belongings and went back to his faraway land. He didn’t mind that his travel plans were all disrupted.
One season had gone away and another had come. There in that faraway land he heard about the cyclonic floods that devastated that land – about trees uprooted, about an overflow of toxic silt, about the dead and the dying. He feared for the land he labored. He suffered for the fig sapling he had tended. He did not know that though the plant had survived the flood, it was now dying. Weeds and brambles multiplied in that decay like an epidemic. They were now choking the sapling of all nourishment.
Then, there was a severe drought. The brambles and weeds perished in that scorching heat. Eventually, one day the locals collected them for fire.
The sapling, however, clung tenaciously to life. That life was, now, slowly ebbing away. Meanwhile, in that faraway land the traveler did the only thing he could. He prayed. He groaned in the spirit. Deep communicating to deep. Pain tearing at the heavens. And God heard.
One day a big fat noisy cloud brought some sudden thunder showers. These lasted a season. The wilted sapling burst forth, sprouting new shoots. It grew to the size of a modest shrub. It did not forget the big flat cloud that gave it healing, and was ever grateful for that.
The traveler journeyed back. Pain searing his heart, without any news, he wondered what he would find. Even, afraid of what he would find. Yet, soaking all his pain with prayer.
He was pleasantly surprised to find it lush with fruit. His heart was overjoyed. But the land did not remember him nor did the tree. They remembered, certainly, that big fat cloud. After so many seasons who would remember who planted the seed or who tilled the land,... Anyway. Whatever. At least the fig had grown. It was strong enough to sustain on its own. That mattered. Now no flood or drought could harm it – its roots had gone deep.
Then, after seeing that all was well, he resumed his pilgrim journeys to faraway lands. Lands full of danger. The dangers didn’t matter. What really mattered was that his labor was not in vain. He knew in his heart that Christian Ministry is, always, planting shade trees under which we know full well we will never sit.
The traveler continued his sojourn with ice in his heart, steel in his mind and peace in his soul. For, he sought for a city whose foundation and builder was God.
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do,
should say, ‘we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
Luke 17: 10