The Faith of a Mustard Seed

People are always shocked when I explain that I am an instantaneous gratification type or that I like hard core rock music. Apparently, it’s pretty off-brand for the persona I exhibit, which I think is hilarious. I get a kick out of surprising people. I don’t toe the party line either.

“Bigger is better” is a truth in Western culture and apparently was also in Jesus’s time, when he started talking about faith and mustard seeds, our brains automatically go to size. The mustard seed is tiny, but it grows quite a large bush.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

After spending time in the garden, I don’t believe Jesus was just talking about “the size” of the faith, per se. This particular translation from the ESV really made me think: faith like a grain of mustard seed.

What good is a little mustard seed sized bit of faith if it is not cared for?

The church of my youth loved to press on the “just have faith” as if it was designed for me in an instantaneous gratification exercise. They always preached that faith just happened. They never really addressed the struggling it can involve or that sometimes faith takes awhile to mature into a big robust plant with a 20ft spread.

In my experience, God usually works more like a slow cooker on low than an InstaPot, no matter how much the American Evangelical machine tries to tell me otherwise. My struggles have not been met with immediate miracle fixes. I think Jesus’s message about the mustard seed goes deeper than just the size of the seed.

A mustard seed does not grow into a large bush overnight. It takes about ten days for that little guy to germinate – and that’s if all the conditions are met with water and sun. It’s recommended to grow them in a greenhouse pot for the first three years before transplanting them outside. Mustard bushes, once established, are hardy plants that require minimal care, like a mature faith that has had years to grow. Even when fully mature, the bush does not like soggy soil and has a reputation for contracting a few fungal diseases. Like growing any plant, it takes time – an anathema to my default setting. It takes consistency with water, sun, and the occasional pruning, like the grapevine Jesus mentions in John 15.

Faith can start out microscopic and grow into something huge, just like the mustard seed becomes a bush. But that takes time. It takes care. Sometimes we take our mustard-sized seed of faith, throw it in the ground, water it for a day or so, then promptly forget about it. We don’t become intentional about caring for it.

Consistency in caring for plants and tending to my faith in Jesus go hand in hand. Faith and plants both grow – they are living things – but if not properly tended to, can die.

Like me with my not-safe-for-work hard rock playlists, there’s always more than meets the eye. And it makes me smile at how being in the garden can make one can plumb the depths of Jesus’s words through its lens.

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