By Rev. Jim Innes
It’s late October, and I can’t help but enjoy the splashes of red and orange as I drive the backroads to my parish. I have also noticed the tall, flawlessly-even, height of yellowing corn stalks as well as the bounty of soybean hanging substantially beneath their withered-leaves. It’s undoubtedly that time of year when the familiar words ‘we reap what we sow’ are visually explicit.
‘We reap what we sow’ is a saying most commonly used to emphasize that there are predictable consequences to our actions. Notably, and most simplistically, if we plant a ‘good’ seed, we will reap a ‘good’ harvest, and if we plant a ‘bad’ seed, we will reap a ‘bad’ harvest.
In the farming world, where the reaping and sowing metaphor is taken from, there are so many uncontrollable post-sowing variables that seed has undergone much genetic experimentation. And this research is not just about developing resilience to Mother Nature’s many uncertainties, but an attempt to improve the sowing vs. reaping balance; such that sowing a particular hybrid seed can now harvest more than ever.
Despite all attempts to control the variables, once we have sown the seed, anything can happen. The painstaking chore of the sowing of good seed doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a harvestable crop. Not even the ebb and flow of the growing season is predictable. Spring is coming earlier, and the freeze of winter is less intense. All of which affect change in many life cycle events.
Every farmer knows the trouble in predicting the outcome of a harvest. And the uncertainty implicit in nature can be discouragingly uncontrollable. It must be said, that to be a successful farmer is to become more resilient than the seed they sow.
And to confuse matters more, even when there is a good harvest, we can’t be ever sure there is a need for it. Which, unfortunately, is an issue facing some Canadian farmers this year. They have grown a generous bounty of soybean but, have lost their top market in China, and are competing with a surplus bean in the US. Soy Canada’s executive director, Ron Davidson, asks, “It’s got to move and if it can’t move, what are we going to do? Dump it in the St. Lawrence?”
As I see it, when it comes to the common usage of the saying ‘we reap what we sow,’ I have great difficulty. I don’t believe it is necessarily true. And it can be untrue in a very unfair manner.
Saying all that, I do like the implications inherent in how the Bible uses the sowing and reaping metaphor in Galatians 6, “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The implications here are not so much on a predictable outcome, but on the intentions of the sower. If we sow in good faith and don’t give up, we will eventually reap something positive. The emphasis is on “not becoming weary.” And Hope comes in accepting that the harvest (in this case, a rewarding harvest) may not be what we expect, or within the time we expect it. Still, eventually, the ‘good’ energy we put into sowing, in the most effective way we know, will, in some way and in some manner, have a sustaining payoff.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.
(Featured photo: Christine Coley/Unsplash)