And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9
Three years ago I read a book that was geared toward building better relationships with your children. The book also referenced the extreme problem we have in our society today with fatherlessness, especially in the African American community.
At the end of the book the author issued a simple challenge to all readers – do something in your respective community to help a fatherless child. I took the challenge to heart. My first objective was to seek out a young man that needed a father figure – which in my community is akin to searching for trees in the forest. The needs are great, but the workers are few.
I soon joined a national youth mentoring organization. During the interview process I was asked about the type of young man I wanted to be matched with (i.e., interests, hobbies, personality traits, etc.). I was somewhat offended by the questions. “I’d rather not approach this like a dating service application. I’m looking to serve the needs of a `at risk’ young man, not to serve my companionship voids. Match me with a child in a tough situation that has a true need for mentoring and direction.”
The organization heard my requests loud and clear, and they were more than happy to accommodate them. Shortly thereafter I was matched with a 10 year old African American young man by the name of Lance.
Lance lived in a rather compromised area of my town, and was being raised by his rather elderly Great Grandmother, Ruth. Why? Because his biological parents and most other family members were either incapable, or simply uninterested.
Ruth certainly meant well. But she was clearly in over her head in trying to raise a preteen boy and his teenage brother and sister at her current age and income level.
As Lance and I got to know each other it quickly became evident that this was a good, well-mannered young man. Our outings varied quite a bit in content and purpose, but they almost always incorporated 3 essentials – laughter, recreation, and food. As the trust element began to grow between the two of us, I slowly began to incorporate one more essential into our routine – discussions of spirituality.
Lance had a natural curiosity about the Lord and asked great, well thought out questions about faith, righteousness, and other vital spiritual matters. He soon started attending church with our family.
Over the first 2 ½ years of our match things went quite well between Lance and I. Within the last 6 months things started to change.
The first warning sign occurred near the end of last school year. Ruth called me to inform me that Lance was having problems at school, and that a meeting had been called involving herself and the school administrators to determine the next course of action. I asked Ruth if I could attend. During the meeting a few days later we were made aware of Lance’s multiple behavioral issues. I was shocked! Lance was called into the room and asked for his input on the issues. He calmly denied every infraction, despite the eye witnesses and strong supporting evidence.
The whole scene was disturbing to me, but the most troubling was Lance’s straight-faced denial and lack of accountability. The school then offered its resolution. Either Lance needed to be transitioned into a 5 week alternative school program for kid’s with unique issues, or be dismissed from the school altogether.
I offered to drive Lance home from the alternative school each day. The 20 minute drives proved to be valuable time for Lance and me. We would talk about his behavior, his thoughts and his ambitions. But most importantly we spent time talking about the Lord.
I was under the impression that everything went well when Lance returned to his middle school for the last 2 weeks of the school year. But Ruth quickly informed me that Lance would not be allowed to return to the middle school due to reoccurring disciplinary issues upon his return from the alternative school.
As this summer progressed Ruth got busy searching for schools in which Lance could enroll for the fall. Then it occurred to me: How about the private Christian school in our neighborhood?
I arranged a meeting with Mark, the head of the private Christian school, and told him about Lance and his troubled background. I also told Mark about Lance’s good heartedness, and his blossoming relationship with the Lord. Mark was all in, and despite Lance’s past disciplinary issues, Mark was willing to take a chance on Lance. Surely this would be the atmosphere for Lance’s spiritual life to finally spout into full bloom.
At the end of the 2nd day of school I received a rather disturbing call from the school. Lance had been caught stealing the cell phone of a fellow student. Despite the whole incident being captured on surveillance video, Lance denied the whole thing. Lance and I spoke in detail about the event, and sure enough, he denied it to me as well.
The next morning Lance, Ruth, and I attended a meeting with Mark at the school. Mark was masterful at finally getting Lance to admit his wrongdoings. Lance seemed genuinely contrite about the whole matter. Lance and I then spent a few minutes praying together in a private office at the school.
While Mark and I both knew there be more challenges with Lance at the school, we were convinced that Lance had turned a very important corner.
Then, on Tuesday of the following week, I received another disturbing phone call from the school. Lance had not only been caught stealing more cell phones, he had been bragging about it to his fellow classmates. The father of one of the students had gotten the police involved. Mark had no choice but to dismiss Lance from the school.
At this point Lance’s fate seemed to be well established: His life was on a sure collision course with disaster. I had failed Lance, wasted his time. It was apparent that I had become exactly what I sought to avoid from the outset – nothing more than a glorified companion to Lance, not a difference-making mentor.
Then last week, in the midst of my despair concerning my missed opportunity with Lance, I suddenly thought of a word from Paul in 1 Corinthians:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Corinthians 3: 6 – 7
It’s certainly true. We can only plant and water the seed. Only God can make the seed grow. This sudden revelation eased my concerns, yet, I decided to take it a step further. I did some research on nature’s actual seed germination process.
I read about nature’s growth technicalities: from minuscule seed to gigantic harvest. I can summarize my findings with the following 2 discoveries:
How Do You Get a Newly Planted Seed To Germinate?
1 – Expose the seed to a positive environment.
2 – Seeds growth dormancy can be broken by greater exposure to the sun.
God spoke to me about Lance in a way that only God could. Lance’s future was not doomed. After all, in my 3 years with Lance I had exposed him to a more positive environment.
But what about Lance’s growth dormancy issue? About the time it seems that Lance is about to spout into a life-altering personal relationship with the Lord, he reverts back to behaviors that clearly grieve our Father. Does nature’s germination analogy hold any encouragement here?
For the answer I was reminded of point number 2 above: Seeds that are dormant need more exposure to the sun. That’s it! Lance simply needs more exposure to `The Son’ if he is to spout and grow spiritually.
I made one other significant discovery during my research:
How Long Does It Take a Seed To Germinate?
The germination process can start within 7 days, but from there it can take several months for the seed to actually yield a harvest.
There you have it! Lance had attended the private Christian school for only 7 days. But during that short time Lance was exposed to `The Son’ by being surrounded with the love of Jesus, as expressed through his fellow peers and school administrators – even through their immediate forgiveness for his wrongdoings despite his necessary dismissal from school.
I have no intentions of giving up on Lance, and neither should you. I believe his spiritual seed is quietly germinating – and like that of a seed carefully planted in the ground – the growth is yet beyond our vision.
As such I now rejoice as I patiently allow God to do His subtle work – and now I’m eagerly awaiting the harvest!