An unusually wet summer, years ago, proved to be a special problem in growing corn when my wife and I were a bit more involved in growing vegetables for our family. I recall one garden news expert remarking at the time that since, we were having an especially wet summer, the roots of corn plants had not grown downward as deeply as they generally do thus making them very susceptible to being knocked down. And so it was that a very heavy rain late in the season beat the corn down until the stalks all lay flat upon the ground. Being of the opinion that corn growing vertically would do much better than corn lying flat on the ground, my wife, Diane, and I laboriously restored them to upright positions by carefully standing each individual plant up and then packing soil around their roots.
A few weeks later, a few short but heavy rains early in the day knocked a lot of the corn down again. I was not home at the time so my wife diligently set herself to the task of restoring them to an upright stance and, when our family left to run some errands, the garden was in fairly decent shape. But then we had a “gulley washer” a few evenings later while we were gone. The next morning when we investigated, we found that the four new rows of corn had all fallen, smashed down flat once again by torrents of rain.
When we were finally able to go out to fix what we could before we had to leave again, we found that a lot of the stalks were actually broken or had begun to curve as they lay on the ground, their growth bending them towards the sunlight. Still, it was mostly back in shape by the time we had to leave again.
Two days later, however, Diane went out again to the garden and discovered that another rain had fallen, both adding significant weight to the corn stalks and weakening the soil that we had piled up around the plants causing them to fall again. Needless to say, we were both crestfallen over our fallen corn. We seized the narrow window of opportunity between other responsibilities and stood the plants up yet again.
The end result of our labors I may disclose in a future article, but for now let me only say that our misadventures in trying to keep the corn upright reminded me a little of God’s efforts in growing an “upright” people in whom He intends to produce a harvest.
If we appreciate the fact that God personally engages His people in a covenant relationship (complete with mutual benefits and responsibilities), then we must recognize the trial that we must be to Him at times as we frequently demonstrate a failure at being “upright.”
The spiritual alignment of a Christian is, in a sense, a vertical one. This is not a description of a physical stance but of a spiritual one, in case anyone thought that the human body is some sort of cosmic rabbit ears: lifting your left arm over your head, for example, and holding your right leg backward in the air will in no way improve the effectiveness of your prayers. No, living in spiritually vertical alignment (which is to say “living an upright life”) simply means living a life focused on God and His Word while manifesting a straightforward commitment for “God-likeness” in attitude and character. This orientation, which is not native to us, is the result of a life redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and a heart that is transformed by God’s grace.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).
We might be considered a “trial” to God therefore when we lean towards either the various distractions that come our way or give in to our own compulsions (the remnants of the old lives we lived before we came to know Jesus as Savior). Such “mild” and subtle bendings in our character are little moments of compromise or laziness that erode a passionate following of Jesus. Naturally, when “heavy rains” of trouble, trial, and temptation come our way, we are knocked flat into a mud of failure and condemnation from the world.
When Diane and I were standing corn up for the umpteenth time, I can tell you that I seriously considered giving up on that corn. But my wise wife gently reminded me of the reward we could expect on the other end of our waiting and working, stalks with full and ripened ears of corn upon them. So I joined her and set myself again to the task of straightening out that stubborn corn.
And I am sure too that when we get knocked down the Lord is quick to intervene in our lives in order to stand us up again in an upright relationship with God. Through His Word He “straightens us out” so that you and I can live an upright life, free to enjoy our fellowship with Him and His people, and ready to produce a harvest of praise and fruitful service to God. The fruit of godliness produced by living uprightly opens the door for a more joyful life and opens the door for those around us to also be touched by the grace of God.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.