Sowing and Reaping
This is a slightly revised letter I wrote to a friend and decided that others might benefit from it as well.
Dear friend, a few thoughts have come to me that maybe God can use to encourage you.
Remember the seminar called Love and Respect that we began to watch? Remember the crazy cycle? That is the trap you find yourself in right now and seem to not be able to escape. But while you are desperate for you wife to show you some respect which you rightly need and crave, at the very same time you are standing on your wife's air hose supplying her innate need for love. Without love she tends to act disrespectfully; without respect you tend to act unlovingly. And the cycle keeps spinning out of control. Remember that?
But it will never work to wait and expect her to make the first move to reverse that spinning wheel. As much as you long for it to happen that way, God cannot violate the natural laws that He has designed for creation to function. Realize that God is sharing these truths with you first. What you both are suffering under is simply the natural effects of violating basic principles of reality which must be respected and with which we have to harmonize our lives if we want better results in our relationships.
God has gifted you with insights and opportunities to know more truth about His ways than others around you right now. And while you need to appreciate and thank Him for that, you cannot expect them to respect you at this early stage, for at this point it is you who are indebted to them to begin demonstrating first in your own life the principles you are beginning to learn, not the other way around. Those in darkness cannot treat you with greater light than they have, it just doesn't work that way. You are the one who has been given advanced light of truth. But this is not just factual truth. The Bible says letter kills but the Spirit gives life. It is an infusion of the Spirit of God that is so desperately needed in our relationships, our homes, our marriages and our families. Only God can heal us. Yet if we are not experiencing that healing it is always because in some area of our hearts we are resisting doing something God needs us to do to move forward with His healing plans in our life.
Remember what the man said in that seminar? The worst thing you can tell a woman is that you do not love her and that you don't think you ever have. That is like murder to a woman's heart and causes more damage than even physical abuse. Because you have told her this in the past, how can you then expect her to somehow work up feelings of respect for you that you so much need to feel when you are the one who has caused so much further damage in her already wounded heart?
But don't throw in the towel and think it is too late or it is hopeless. God is in the rescuing and salvaging business remember. Nothing is too tangled, broken or screwed up that He cannot repair and restore if we will simply release our vice-grip on it and put it into His easily capable hands. If we cannot see His working (yet He is preparing everything behind the scenes all along anyway) it is a sign that He is waiting patiently for us to let go of something so He can have full access to our own heart.
There is a truth I call 'principles of reality' that is clearly spelled out many places in God's Word. One of them that shows up from Genesis to Revelation is the principle of sowing and reaping and reproduction of the same kind. It is evidenced everywhere in nature and God spoke clearly of it at creation. But it also shows up again in many of the parables of Jesus and in Galatians.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:7-9)
Although this principle explains why you are currently reaping so much heartache and disrespect from your family, the very same principle can be utilized to reverse that process. But inherent in this principle is also the time factor that every farmer and gardener takes into account. You can't reap instantly everything you are sowing for it takes various lengths of time for different kinds of plants to mature. But the basic principle is unavoidable for God has designed every seed to bear a harvest after its own kind.
If we sow seeds of distrust, complaining, bitterness, unloving comments and hopelessness, those seeds spring up like noxious weeds to multiply themselves in the soil of both our own hearts and in those around us.
But the same principle is true when we decide to reverse that problem. We can choose, even in the midst of all the painful harvest from past mistakes from bad seeds sown, to begin to intentionally plant better seeds and at the same time work with God to begin weeding out the plants from previous sowing. It can be very difficult and discouraging at first while we are waiting for the new seeds to grow and to avoid complaining about living among all the weeds. But it is vital that we take a bigger view of reality and keep very close to God during this time of waiting. For as Paul says in that last passage, do not grow weary and miss out on the good things you can enjoy if you will plant better seeds from here out.
The new seeds here that need planting are the attitudes and comments and choices and actions that reflect heaven's ways of thinking and relating. Instead of replanting over and over again seeds from the matured weeds of emptiness, fear, loneliness, bitterness, resentment and all the other things we are so used to feeling, we must focus now on the goodness of God and the fruit of the Spirit and begin to deliberately counteract the temptation to replant those familiar seeds of our past way of thinking.
If we ever expect to get better harvests both in our own thinking and emotions as well as from those around us, the only possible way is for us to begin to plant very different kinds of seeds right now and then keep planting them over and over faithfully even while surrounded currently with the stickers and poisonous weeds from past plantings. Yes, God's grace will help us deal with the pain and frustration of current problems resulting from past choices to plant foul seeds. But planting more bad seed will never result in gaining future better produce. That is why bailing out of a marriage is not the answer for finding the love and respect that your heart longs for. The real problem is not out there in someone else but is deep inside where you have authority to determine what kinds of seeds get planted today.
Bringing us back into alignment with the basic principles of reality and especially this principle of cause and effect that governs all of God's creation is the process we call salvation. As you know it means salvaging, and God is seeking our cooperation to transform the way we think, the way we perceive reality and the resultant ways we feel by awakening us to the real truths about His fundamental principles that govern life. Yet He will not force us to choose a better way though there are many inducements to do so and many terrible consequences that will result naturally from continuing to violate laws of reality. But never make the mistake that it is God exercising force over our hearts or threatening punishment against us. Force overriding our free will is never something God will do for that is Satan's method. But the unavoidable effects of violating principles of life are a force of their own that we cannot avoid any more than thinking we can be exempt from gravity or any other natural law.
I encourage you to begin intently focusing on getting to know the truth about God's true character and making choices to discipline your mind to refrain from making more bad investments in the kind of seeds you plant with your words. Remember that whatever you plant will always spring up and bear its harvest. Only in making a determined choice repeatedly to turn away from those deeply ingrained habits of speaking and acting that brings death can things change. Then throw yourself into the loving arms of your Maker again and again to keep you while you wait to experience the kind of joyful living that will emerge in your heart as new seeds you now invest can begin to mature down the road.
Don't become discouraged if the new seeds take time to grow and mature. Again, you don't harvest tomatoes or any other good fruit the day after you plant them. The same principle applies to spiritual and emotional plantings in the heart. There are some plants that will produce returns surprisingly fast to your amazement, and it is good to taste some of the new flavors right away. But most of the good harvest has to be anticipated in hope as you both wait and do what you can to cultivate, fertilize and water these new seedlings in the heart, both your own heart and those around you. In the meantime you must learn to eat from God's table. And the food you eat there can sustain you while you cooperate with Him in planting the same kind of food you find there in places where it may have never grown before.
As you take fruit from God's provision for your heart that you can't currently find in your wife or family's hearts that your spirit longs to experience, do not fail to take the seeds from inside the fruit from God and reinvest them through words, looks and actions of kindness and selfless love into the lives of those you wish to see changed. If you are willing to do this, no matter how impossible your circumstances seem right now, the principle of sowing and reaping is infallible and sooner or later you will begin to see sprouts springing up. But be careful; don't try to pick them prematurely, for as in the natural world, every plant needs time to take root and mature before it can produce enough fruit to share back with you. If you try to eat what you just planted in other hearts too quickly you may destroy the potential for a much healthier harvest if you simply take time to cultivate it. Good farmers don't eat all their seed you know.
Cultivating also involves loosening hard soil, removing rocks and extricating the many noxious weeds that have been growing for so long. It can be hard, discouraging work at times which is why it is to important to daily spend time with the Master Gardener and abide in the sure hope of a better harvest down the road. But the principle of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping is irrevocable and if you align your life positively to this principle you are guaranteed a better harvest. As I said, in the meantime you must nourish your heart from the provisions God supplies, both directly from Him, from His Word and from those who are likewise following His ways that He puts into your path.
I hope this can be used by God to help you a little bit. Everything I have shared here equally applies to my own life. I have not arrived by any means (don't ask my wife for sure), but I am slowly learning these things myself and wrestle with applying them in my own relationships. But the principles are true and reliable nevertheless whether any of us align ourselves with them or continue to violate them and suffer the consequences. What is an inescapable reality that we must cling to is God's constant and unconditional love for every one of us, His beloved children. No matter how dysfunctional our lives become we are still loved intensely and He is always eager to leap to the rescue of every child who cries out to Him for deliverance from sin. If it seems this is not happening, ask Him to open your eyes, for there is far more going on than we are used to taking into account. Trust His heart even in the dark.
Don't forget that the principle of sowing and reaping also applies to what we put into our own minds. So if we keep feeling like garbage, then most likely we are allowing too much garbage and mental junk food to fill our imagination from sources we have become addicted to for coping with life. The road to health means we must start to make different choices than what we have made in the past. Remember, insanity is described as continuing to do the same things over and over again while expecting different results. If we want different results we absolutely must start making different choices – planting different seeds to start with. As new seeds are planted and replanted and replanted each day, our lives, our hearts, our families will all slowly begin to be transformed and take on new life as the fruit of God's Spirit displaces the fruits from the kingdom of destruction.
God bless you richly as you choose new plants to invest in your heart and your wife's heart. Be patient and keep cooperating with the Master Farmer who's ways always work to produce the best results. He is excited to work as quickly as you become willing to cooperate with Him and allow Him to bring you into alignment with the natural laws of life. Praise Him incessantly for His goodness and all the other character attributes that make Him so attractive. As we do we release those same attributes into our own lives as new seed and begin to reflect them in our treatment of those around us.
Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life And loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalms 34:11-14)
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life--so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, "the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? (1 Peter 3:7-13 NAS95, NRSV)