“First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn shall appear.”
These words many of us sing around this time each year, are from the hymn, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” They are also the words from Matthew 4:28. A clear reference to the agricultural process, they are certainly appropriate when we begin to think of Thanksgiving and the harvest season. As we celebrate the blessings of our lives, we can also give thanks for the process that brought us here.
One of the things that I hear in these words is: “process.” In a culture that seeks immediate results, often with little effort, it is important to remember that the order of creation demonstrates the process required to receive those results. The harvest does not just happen, not even when we wish for it very much. The harvest comes after seeds are lovingly planted, nurtured and watered. The results come after seasons of patient waiting for the crops to mature and faithful protection of those crops against a variety of natural dangers.
What makes this agrarian image such a valuable teaching is how closely it parallels the harvest of faith and righteousness in our lives. Our path toward perfection and holiness is a process. Our journey in faith is a process. Our maturity in all aspects of our lives comes as the result of a process. All that is growing in our lives requires patience, perseverance, and persistence. There is no real shortcut, and we should be thankful for this truth, for much of what really matters on our journey is the journey itself.
Many people love to travel and experience new places, but some of the best travel memories they share involve the travel time itself. Simply “getting there” is not the real goal. It is the experience of getting there, being there and coming home that holds the real value.
Education echoes the same themes. It is important to achieve key steps in the process, and moments like graduation are deeply meaningful and significant. However, much of the real leaning, along with the most valuable lessons, happen outside the classroom, and are not found directly in the curriculum. It is the places we struggle with discipline that make us stronger. It is conversations outside of class that help us to learn more than was expected. The relationships we make along the way can be a source of joy and strength for life. The process is as important, if not more important than the product.
Ultimately, it is our faith journey that can benefit most from our attention to the process. Too often we are so busy trying to “get there,” wherever there happens to be, that we miss what God is doing in and with us on the way. Frequently, when I talk with pastors who are in the process toward ordination, I hear them say things that imply that they cannot wait to be ordained so that they will be able to minister. I understand and remember those feelings, but the truth is, we all have the opportunity to minister every day, not just when we achieve a particular goal. We are all ministers of the Gospel.
Likewise, we would all like to come to the place where we have fully matured in our faith, but honestly, it will not happen, for we will always be maturing. With each new accomplishment, there will be at least one new opportunity calling us forward.
As we celebrate the harvest this year, let’s not lose sight of what it took to bring that harvest to fruition, and while we are sharing thanksgiving for all we have, let’s remember to be thankful for the process that brought us here. Then, when we look toward the future, we can celebrate our goals, but we can also celebrate the process that will take us to them, and then we can enjoy the journey as we go.