We made the short hike through the bush to the mountain-side garden. The view is such that one can’t help but stop and stare. When you look out from the garden you can see for miles and miles. Though it’s June and technically dry season, lush, green vegetation is everywhere.
We went to the garden to start a fire.
Sarita took her lighter and began burning away the dead leaves and branches. The fire prepares the soil for new seeds to be planted.
“How long do you have to wait before you can plant seeds?” I ask.
“Tomorrow,” she says, “Tomorrow we will plant seeds.”
Tomorrow? I assumed they’d have to wait weeks, even months to plant again. But no, a day is all it takes. Tomorrow.
The fire makes quick work of the rubbish. I put more distance between the flames and my daughters and tell them that we will come back tomorrow and put seeds in the ground. They’re excited at the prospect of planting. The fire blazes for a little while longer and then we make our way back to the village.
The next day we return with seeds in hand. 4 year old Benton digs holes with a stick and we lay our seeds down in them. Then we cover them back over with dirt, our hands brown like our Papua New Guinean friends. Cucumbers, pumpkins, melons; in six months the harvest will come.
Recently, Sarita came to town and stopped in to visit us on her way to another village. With her was a bilum full of cucumbers: the harvest.
“Do you remember planting these?” I asked my oldest daughter.
“Yes,” she says with a grin.
Later, I peel the green vegetable and cut it in slices. The four of us bite down and taste the sweet, watery cucumber, little seeds crunching between our teeth.
It was one day of fire, then months of watering and weeding, giving time for the seed to take root and sprout its shoot. These cucumbers may have even come sooner were it not for the drought that has plagued Papua New Guinea.
Isn’t it interesting that it is through fire that the soil is made ready to plant? Fire has the potential to cause great damage and disaster. But, it also has the ability to burn away that which isn’t needed, that which could harm the seed. Fire is a cleanser and a protector.
Most of us are afraid of fire. We’re afraid of pain and damage. We fear discipline and suffering. But we’re met with the reality of a God that is a Consuming Fire.
Sometimes His fire makes work in our hearts, cleansing the chaff and making space for new life. And if we can allow ourselves to be made ready for planting, allow ourselves to be the birthplace of a seed, to let His fire burn away that which hinders growth, we put ourselves in a position of great expectation.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “…I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” The seed has a great propensity to overcome. It only needs a little help, light, water, but most of the work it does on its own.
So if you’re in the middle of the fire, know that the end is near. Tomorrow we will plant seeds. And once the seed is planted, the season of hope begins.
Let us prepare our hearts for the harvest.