I’ve been thinking about our lonely tomato plant. This summer we were given several small tomato plants for the kids to nurture. We had great hopes for them. I’m not really sure why — if you dig too deeply into my past you’ll find an ugly history of plants that perished from neglect. That’s exactly what happened to 4 out of the 5 innocent little seedlings we were given.
The 5th one made it. My boys carefully set it in an old flowerpot at the base of our deck. Their sister, who is actually good with living green things, watered and cared for it when the rest of us forgot about it. It quickly climbed the deck railing and stood proud and tall. We watched with anticipation, hoping for juicy red tomatoes to throw in the salad. My daughter tied it to the deck so it wouldn’t fall over. I examined it every now and then, checking for the yellow blossoms that promised fruit.
The fruit never arrived. All summer that plant sucked nutrients from the soil and grew taller. Not one tomato did it produce.
To be honest, I didn’t think much about it. I ignored it every day on the way to the van. Visitors to our home stopped to admire it, and the kids thought it was neat.
One day my sister-in-law, one of those people who have big gardens every year, walked by and said “That thing isn’t planted deep enough. It’s not going to produce anything that way.” I looked. Sure enough — that impressive, tall tomato plant just barely dipped its toes into the dirt . My little boys, unattended by a knowledgeable adult, just stuck it haphazardly into the flowerpot and threw a little soil on top. It had no foundation, and yet it grew, and it gave the impression of being beautiful and useful to us.
That little seedling was full of potential. It could have been a top-producing, award-winning tomato plant with the right care. But it was planted by young, enthusiastic boys who did not know how to root it properly. It was watered by a girl who cared about its well-being and nurtured it, but didn’t realize it needed a deeper covering where it really counted. And it was ignored completely by the adults of the family, who only stopped by to admire the potential every now and then, and then let the kids take care of it.
After a while, it began to yellow. Daddy walked by one afternoon, pulled it up, and threw it in the trash. So much for great potential.
I walked away thinking of the way I raise my children. I’ve got to do more than haphazardly stick them in the Word of God and expect them to grow, their toes barely dipped under the surface. I have to do more than admire their splendid potential in the Lord. I have to uphold and support the loving, enthusiastic people who have a passion for watering their souls. I have to ask people with wisdom to tell me when our roots are showing — and not be offended when they do.