Otis tried to serve well. He never questioned God about the plans he had for him. Well, at least he hadn’t questioned him often. But as he watched the sun peek across the mountains and the fog rise towards heaven, Otis let his thoughts drift over the parable he was going to read at the school and thought…
“I’ve planted all these years God in that dark hollow. That place in the valley where the sunlight never quite erases the shadows.”
He drove his rusty Chevy past the spring gardens and saw shoots of new plants pushing through the dirt.
“The kids, God, have any of them listened? I am grateful to serve, but …”
Otis’s attention was drawn back to the road that began to wind up the mountain and hang over the tops of pink Mountain Laurel. Finally, he pulled into a gravel parking lot, unloaded his flannel board, and walked toward the school.
“Otis, welcome back. The kids missed you this winter,” the principal smiled and escorted Otis to the classroom. “Students, Mr. Otis is here with a Bible story.” Cheers chorused around the room and a smile tugged at Otis’s mouth.
“Hello, everyone. I’m going to read to you today from the NIV Bible. Matthew, chapter 13; verse 3-8 and 19-23.
‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…’
Otis then continued, “This is often called the parable of the sower and when Jesus explained the meaning to his disciples he said,
‘… When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
All the children clapped as Otis finished and began packing his flannel board. All except a girl near the door. She looked at Otis shyly and raised her hand.
“When can I hear more Bible stories?” she asked.
Otis handed her a church flyer. “Here, honey. Ask your parents to bring you to church,” he said as he walked by her.
Then, alone again in his car , Otis continued his conversation with God…
“My trial hasn’t been in following. My trial is in the waiting. God, will I ever see the harvest?”
Otis’s eyes filled with tears at the same moment the narrow road took a sharp turn. The Chevy left the road and sailed above the Mountain Laurels. Otis closed his eyes in surrender and a second later the car crashed among lush Rhododendrons and rolled down the rocky crag.
Otis never lived to know.
He never lived to know that Melinda did ask her parents to take her to church to hear more Bible stories read.
He never lived to know that Melinda grew up to teach Sunday school and read Bible stories to child after child.
He never lived to know that one spring day as Melinda bent to work in her garden, her son knelt beside her and said that he had been called to mission work.
He never lived to know that Melinda rocked her grandson that same day and read him the parable of the seed.
Otis never lived to see the harvest, but he planted anyway.
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