I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
Over the last four years, I have had the privilege of co-shepherding a group of teenage girls along their spiritual journey. Next month, those young ladies will graduate from high school and head to college where the world will pull them in a multitude of directions they have never before encountered, and I can’t help but wonder if anything I shared will be used along their paths.
I am not the mother of any of these girls, but I worry a lot about how well I equipped them to stand firm when their faith is tested. I anxiously wonder if they will put on the full armor of God when they are confronted with situations that beg them to act like Christ. Will they remember to buckle the belt of truth around their waist when someone tells them they aren’t good enough? Will they don the breastplate of righteousness when they see a stranger in need? Will they be brave enough to step toward peace when they encounter conflict? And when someone questions their belief in the risen Lord, will they remember to pick up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God? (Ephesians 6:11-17)
I first met these young ladies four years ago when they were in 9thgrade. At that time, my co-leader and I also met with their parents and pledged to partner with them to help raise children to know and love God. We made a promise to stick with them until they graduated from high school, and we have done that.
We faithfully showed up week after week, planned lessons, created worksheets, purchased snacks, hosted tea parties, Christmas parties, and a spaghetti dinner, took them out for coffee, texted them to see how they were doing, attended their school plays, and rejoiced with them when they were accepted into college. My goal was to make strong Christians out of these girls so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had made when I headed off to college.
Though we devotedly prayed for each of these girls by name, their commitment to our small group waivered. As they aged, other activities took precedence in their lives, and they showed up to small group less and less. What started out as a strong group of sixteen inquisitive 9thgraders dwindled to a questionable group of about five 12thgraders. This was not what we had planned.
I take great comfort in the words God spoke through Isaiah in 55:8—11.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
If I am honest with myself, the real question I want answered is not, “Are they prepared” but, “Did I do enough?” This question, unfortunately, is filled with pride and demonstrates my lack of trust in God. I sadly forget that I was not the only one pouring truth and scripture into them.
My weekly opportunity to meet with these girls will end soon, but God’s work with them will never end. I was just one of the many laborers in each girls’ faith garden. Sometimes I tilled the soil. Sometimes I watered the seeds. Sometimes I added Miracle Gro. There were others who did as much, perhaps more. We had a common purpose, but any accolades for growth belong to God alone.
I will not stop praying for these young ladies. My prayers, however, will change. Instead of asking God to equip me to lead them, I will be praying for Him to bring master gardeners into each of their lives that can nurture and strengthen their spiritual walk as they mature in faith and stature.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Prayin' Sowin' Reapin' by Layton Howerton.
Lyrics: “There are fields to be plowed and souls to be won.”