Several times this summer, I’ve had the joy of spending a couple hours by a lake. Water, in it’s many forms, is like medicine to the soul. I may write about that at some point. It’s certainly been healing to mine: teaching, refreshing, changing me. Every time I’m beside water, I see something new and I learn something about God or myself, or both. The other day as I sat on the dock of a lake, a saw a fish jump. The fish didn’t even come up out of the water, it just barely touched the surface. But even that small motion completely changed the pattern of movement in the water. The blanket of watery ruffles all moving toward me was suddenly interrupted by a growing circular wave of ripples, traveling outward from where the fish had barely scratched the surface. It was nothing to the fish. In fact, it probably took no effort at all, but it’s little life had a large effect at the surface, for me and all other creatures on land to see.
Imagine our world on land upside down, as if we were fish swimming around in this vast ocean of a world, feeling small and insignificant. We often feel helpless, unable to make a difference. But I have this hunch that if we’ll only have the courage to touch the surface, our ripples will carry effects wider than we imagined. We may never see how far the ripples go, but others will see and experience them.
I have to believe that the investment we make reaps a harvest beyond what we see in the here and now. I have friends and family that have dedicated their lives in big, sacrificial ways to serving and loving others. And often it seems that it’s bearing little fruit compared to the big investment being sown. But somewhere we can’t currently see, I believe it counts. I believe God uses the ripples we create, and miraculously multiplies them.
After all, Jesus shows us God is in the business of multiplying. Jesus showed us he an expert at taking our little human measure, and transforming it into a God-sized, supernatural amount. Our God is endless, boundless, and infinite. When we offer up our tiny lives, resources, and offerings, God exponentially expands it to fulfill his purpose. He’s the God who takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds the thousands.
To add yet another metaphor to the smattering I have going here, I absolutely believe in the principle of sowing and reaping. I believe we do reap what we sow, and sometimes that’s very visible and tangible in our lives. But I also believe that sometimes what we sow goes deep into the ground, hibernates there for a long season, and then finally peeks through the dirt, sometimes long after we’ve moved on. I believe that some of the seeds we plant will grow into big, bountiful life. But we may not get to see that growth right now.
Paul tells the Corinthians: “The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” We may be planting seeds that will someday be watered by someone else before they ever see the light of day. But God sees, and God rewards.
I often have the tendency to feel discouraged when I sweat and work and pour myself out, and don’t see fruit immediately. Like my fellow Americans, I’m really into immediate gratification. I’m very impatient. But God is always patient with me, and he has been patiently teaching me about slow, steady growth. God’s been instilling in me the value of faithfulness, even when I’m not getting a return on my investment. It’s not just about me and my one life, it’s about the whole arc of God’s story, and how he uses the seeds I plant to bear fruit in time, even if it’s not my time.
If I’m truly living my life for Jesus, and not for the praise and recognition of others, I will invest no matter what. There have been so many times I just wanna give up and chuck it all and walk away. And you know what’s really annoying? I can’t. It’s just not in me to do that. God is my everything, and so even when I see no fruit, I keep going because it’s God I’m living for, not results.
So if, like me, you are discouraged today about the harvest you don’t yet see, take heart. We may not see the breadth of the ripples we send out, but God does, and I believe others do too. The things we do in love, no matter how thankless now, will benefit others down the road.
Love travels. Love endures. Love never fails.
There is a saying I heard a lot growing up: “Keep on keepin’ on.” When the fight is real, and we don’t see the victory yet, keep on. When the mortgage is looming and the collectors are calling, keep on. When the days are long and we hear nothing but complaints, keep on. When we do all we know to do and don’t see big, shiny results, keep on. Faithfulness is rewarded in the end.
Sisters and brothers, keep on keepin’ on. God will use the ripples we make. It matters.
P.S. If you need a little pumpin’ up and you’re sick of “Eye of the Tiger”, here’s a little song to get you going (insert "sisters" where needed):