The Savior often compared his people to olive trees or grape vines. These plants were readily understood by his audience at the time, but I'm a New World gardener. I relate better to tomato plants. I have learned a lot while growing them. So, may I present (drumroll, please) my Allegory of the Tomato Patch.
Have you ever looked at a tomato seed? It is small, pale, flat. It does not bear any resemblance to a plant or a fruit. But a gardener knows it has potential.
I filled small containers with a sprouting medium, and poked the tiny seeds in at just the right depth. I added water, and placed the containers in a warm place inside my home. Once the sprouts stretched out of the soil, I set bright lights over them. I lavished attention on my little seedlings, checking on them several times a day, speaking encouraging words. I rejoiced as the first set of leaves unfurled, then the next and the next. I watched the slim green stems grow thicker and stronger. (Just as our pre-mortal spirits grew in the light of our Father's presence.)
Soon the hairy stems reached higher than the lights, and the leaves extended far beyond the growing table. The roots snaked out of the containers' drainage holes. I knew the plants could not grow to maturity inside. I needed to send them out into the world.
I did not simply toss them out the back door. In the sunniest part of my yard, I prepared raised garden beds, with a nutritious mixture of soil and compost. I set each plant deep into the dirt, where its roots could spread out and hold firm. (Our Father prepared this Earth, and set each of us in a family where we could grow.)
Living outside was not easy for my little tomato plants. Sometimes there was too much sunlight, or too much rain. They were buffeted by wind, chewed by slugs. I could not spend as much time with them anymore, nor save them from all the dangers. But their leaves reached upward for light, and the roots reached downward for water, and they grew.
Some types of tomato plants are called "determinate." They can mostly stand up straight and support themselves. "Indeterminate" tomato stems are more like vines, falling flat without something to lean on. Both kinds need some support, eventually, when the fruit becomes heavy. So I set a cage around each plant. I was not trying to confine my plants, or to limit their growth, but to give them a framework for success. (When we keep the commandments, and bind ourselves to God with covenants, we gain the strength we need to reach our divine potential.)
Each plant grew, leaning more or less on its cage. My little helpers and I brought water to the tomato patch, removed weeds, and watched the plain yellow blossoms bring forth fruit. Some tomatoes grew large, some stayed small. Some were red when they ripened, some yellow or green. Some plants brought forth many fruits, some only a few. They were all different. And each ripe tomato was delicious. (Heavenly Father loves us individually, and savors the unique good works we each accomplish.)
What have you learned from your garden?
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