Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Garden of Graduates




            As our daughter was approaching graduation this spring, we decided to give her a graduation party. We had an open-air dinner buffet out in our yard amidst blooming flowers  with games set up around the property and the swimming pool open for those brave enough to dive in for the first swim of the season. I gave away devotions for the graduates as favors and tomato plants  to the adults attending the party--mostly teachers and parents of other students. Tomato plants may seem like an unusual party favor, but they were given as a metaphor to say something more than just "enjoy fresh tomatoes." This is the essay I gave them to go with their tomato plants:

 A Garden of Graduates

"Here before you is a selection of tomato plants. Most of them were grown from seed which I ordered after reading in Texas Gardener about the best varieties to grow in Texas. A few were bought as plants because I couldn’t find the seed. These varieties are supposed to be able to withstand the Texas heat and be good producers. Some of the seeds were difficult to find, but I was delighted when they finally arrived. I planted them in pots of the best soil and gave all of them the same amount of water, fertilizing them with Miracle Grow after they sprouted. Once they were a few inches high, I moved them out into direct sunlight where they could grow stronger. I transplanted them into bigger pots as they grew. When damaging winds or hail was in the forecast, I was sure to move my tender plants back under shelter until the storm passed. Now these tomato plants are ready to bloom and bear fruit.
            How like these tomato plants are our graduating children. Some of us grew our children from our own seed, and others were adopted, but we love and care for all of them.  Just as I selected the soil, we also chose where to plant our children so that they could learn and grow in a nurturing environment and become strong. We chose which schools we thought would be best for them and what churches would teach them spiritual truth. We have fed and sheltered our offspring and protected them as best as we could from the storms that might harm them. We fertilized them with faith,  so that now that faith permeates every part of them. We have given them roots—roots that will keep them grounded and help them not to fall when the winds blow. We have tried to give them what they need to be prepared to bloom and bear fruit.
            Now these tomato plants are ready to be transplanted into bigger pots. If I leave them in the small pots, they will become root-bound, and their growth will be stunted. They may bloom, but they will not bear much fruit. They will eventually be choked to death.
            Our seniors are ready for transplant also. They have been in the sheltered environment of their school where they have been well-watered and fed to prepare them to move on to the next phase of their lives. These great young men and women are poised to be transplanted to an environment where they may grow even taller and stronger, bloom beautifully, and produce the fruit that God has planned for them. But each of them will bear different fruit, because they are each given different gifts, genetics, and abilities.
            These tomato plants look very much the same right now, but they are different varieties. In fact, some are small, some medium, and some large. Some will be orange, others pink, red, or yellow. They have names such as “Flamme’” (a 3 ounce orange French salad tomato),  “Sun Gold Hybrid” (a bright orange, sugary cherry type that grows in long clusters), “Momotaro” ( a pink, sweet, Japanese medium tomato that is perfectly smooth with no blemishes), “German Giant” ( a huge deep pink  heirloom that can grow as large as 2 pounds), “Persimmon” ( which is a beautiful golden orange that is an average of 5 inches in diameter), “Champion II VFNT Hybrid” ( a luscious red sandwich tomato with high yields of large, meaty fruit), and Celebrity (a highly-productive, flavorful All- American with good disease resistance.)
            Our graduates are like these tomato plants. They are of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. They are going to produce wondrous fruit in their futures. In their day to day lives now they look much the same, especially in their school uniforms or in their graduation gowns. But God has given each one his or her own unique abilities and gifts. We have the privilege of watching them as they leave their school and the shelter of our homes and of standing in amazement as they become what God has intended for them to be. We are blessed to be their parents and teachers.
            I encourage you parents and teachers to select a tomato plant and take it home. Plant it in a sunny spot, either in the ground or a large pot, water and fertilize it, give it support (such as a stake or a large tomato cage), and watch what happens. I am not telling you which variety you are getting, so it will be a surprise for you when your plant starts bearing fruit. You just have to have the faith that the fruit is going to be wonderful, just as we have faith that what we have invested in our kids will come to fruition.
            Our children may also surprise us. They are remarkable. As they are poised to enter the realm of a higher education or to start a job or a family, we may pray for them, support them, and continue to love them, but we cannot produce fruit for them. They are who they are, and they will produce from what is within them. We pray that they will glorify God in their choices. Congratulations to our seniors for their accomplishments. And, to you parents and teachers, “Well done, good and faithful servant!Matthew 25:23"

English Standard Version (©2001)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 
 John 15:16