The Hidden Harvest
Guess what, people? I am basically a farmer. Don't laugh, but we have chickens, kale, courgettes, some green tomatoes and a load of slugs in our front garden. The crop that I'm most proud of is my broad beans (that's fava beans for you Americans).
I planted a seed in the ground that looked like a little dried brown butterbean, and then it sprouted. The sprouts turned to plants, then the plants bloomed, and the purple and white flowers turned into little pods. I basically let God and the environment handle the growing of this particular crop, and they were all the better for it. I watered them occasionally and like magic, I got a bowlful of beautiful green-podded beans.
After my magnificent harvest had been blanched and put in the freezer, the flowers fell off and the tops of the plants turned brown and dry (which, if you had seen our rainfall over the last month, you would know is the sign of a dead plant). These plants were dead. They weren't going to do anything else.
However, as it turns out, I am a crap farmer. I went to dig up the dead plants and found something strange and awesome. Who knew that at the bottom of these totally dead-looking plants, there were a whole bunch of bean pods, growing like crazy?
I have a friend who is going through a really hard time right now. When I say hard, you might think of lost jobs, difficult marriages, financial problems, but this is worse than that. He is at what most people would call "rock bottom." Anyone that has talked to me about mental illness knows that my favourite phrase is "There is no bottom." The minute you think you are at the worst that life holds for you, your brain and heart can twist the dagger just a little bit further. Many people think that a suicide attempt would be rock bottom, but those people probably haven't lived the two weeks after that. Depression and addiction can actually act as a numbing agent, and the two weeks after rock bottom are pain beyond anything you can imagine. That's where my friend is. He is trying to claw his way out, and his mind says "You are not worth it. Look in the mirror. Look at the old pictures. You are as dead on the inside as you are on the outside. All the good stuff is behind you."
That voice is as wrong and misguided as my attempts at gardening. That voice doesn't see the growing going on underneath the deadness. It doesn't see the deep roots of faith and perseverance. It doesn't reflect the tiny seeds of hope that are trying to make it out of the soil. It doesn't see a loving father, a sensitive friend, a broken heart of gold. All it sees are the dead leaves and the old stuff.
You, like him, may feel like the dead stuff is all there is. It isn't. The good that you will be able to do as a result of this will be far more than you could do in your own strength before. Some bad gardener might even come along and help clear away all the decaying stuff and show you the amazing fruit that was there all along.
I weighed the broad beans I got during my first harvest, and they were a paltry 250 grams. The fruit I got from my "hidden harvest"? It was more than twice that. I reckon that metaphor speaks for itself.