An unusually heavy rainstorm in July had the effect of knocking down our rows of corn in the little spot of garden that our family had planted in the spring. My mother-in-law informed us that she had heard an expert on a garden news segment remark that since we have been having an especially wet summer, the roots of corn plants had not grown downward as deeply as they generally do making them very susceptible to being knocked down. Being of the opinion that corn growing vertically would do much better than corn lying flat on the ground, my wife, Diane, and I laboriously restored them to upright positions by carefully standing each individual plant up and then packing soil around their roots.
The rains of the past week have, of course, been pretty rough on gardens everywhere. Our second planting of corn in our tiny garden suffered a lot from it in fact. On Monday, the few short but heavy rains early in the day knocked a lot of the corn down. I was not home at the time so my wife diligently set herself to the task of restoring them to an upright stance and, when our family left to run some errands, the garden was in fairly decent shape. But then we had our “gulley washer” on Monday evening. It was dark by the time we arrived home so we were not able to investigate things, although visions of desolation in the corn rows haunted our dreams. Sure enough, the next morning when we investigated, we found that the four new rows of corn had all fallen, smashed down flat by the torrents of rain that had fallen only twelve hours earlier.
Sadly, we had too many things to do to do much about the damage. We did not manage to do an “intervention” until mid afternoon. We hurriedly rushed out to fix what we could before we had to leave again. A lot of the stalks were actually broken or had begun to curve (their growth as they lay on the ground bending them towards the sunlight). Still, it was mostly back in shape by the time we had to leave again.
Early on Wednesday morning, however, Diane went out again to the garden and discovered that another rain had fallen, both adding significant weight to the corn stalks and weakening the soil that we had piled up around the plants causing them to fall again. Needless to say, we were crestfallen over our fallen corn. We seized the narrow window of opportunity between other responsibilities and stood the plants up yet again.
Maybe our diligence in trying to grow upright corn will eventually pay off. Maybe they will yet yield a harvest worth the efforts of cultivating the soil, sowing the seed, pulling the weeds, and plucking the ears. Only time will tell.
Our misadventures in trying to keep the corn upright remind me a little of God’s efforts in growing an “upright” people who He intends also to produce a harvest.
If we appreciate the fact that God personally engages His people in a covenant relationship (complete with mutual benefits and responsibilities), then we must recognize the trial that we must be to Him at times as we frequently demonstrate a failure at being “upright”.
The spiritual alignment of a Christian is, in a sense, a vertical one. This is not a description of a physical stance but of a spiritual one, in case anyone thought that the human body is some sort of cosmic rabbit ears: lifting your left arm over your head, for example, and holding your right leg backward in the air will in no way improve the effectiveness of your prayers. No, living in spiritually vertical alignment (which is to say “living an upright life”) simply means living a life focused on God and His Word while manifesting a straightforward commitment for “God-likeness” in attitude and character. This orientation which is not native to us is the result of a life redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and a heart that is transformed by God’s grace.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14 NIV).
We might be considered a “trial” to God therefore when we lean towards either the various distractions that come our way or give in to our own compulsions (the remnants of the old lives we lived before we came to know Jesus as Savior). Such “mild” and subtle bendings in our character are little moments of compromise or laziness that erode a passionate following of Jesus. Naturally, when “heavy rains” of trouble, trial, and temptation come our way, we are knocked flat into a mud of failure and condemnation from the world.
When Diane and I were standing corn up for the umpteenth time, I can tell you that I seriously considered giving up on that corn. But my wise wife gently reminded me of the reward just on the other end of our waiting and working, stalks with full and ripened ears of corn upon them. So I joined her and set myself again to the task of straightening out that stubborn corn.
And I am sure too that when we get knocked down the Lord is quick to intervene in our lives in order to stand us up again in an upright relationship with God. Through His Word He “straightens us out” so that you and I can live an upright life, free to enjoy our fellowship with Him and His people, and ready to produce a harvest of praise and fruitful service to God. The fruit of godliness produced by living uprightly opens the door for a more joyful life and opens the door for those around us to also be touched by the grace of God.