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Spirituality

Life Lessons from a Tomato Plant

Judy Cobb | May 28, 2014

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Judy Cobb | May 28, 2014

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Tomato PlantsHave you heard the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?”

Who ever thought the teacher could be a tomato plant? After all, what could a plant have to say about life, let alone impart an important lesson? As it happens it did for me.

I like to garden, but not constantly, more like in spurts. Last year I decided to get very serious about tomatoes. I wondered what tomato plants could do if I spent any amount of time and attention on their welfare. I bought powder coated frames that fit into a water ring. They could be double or triple stacked in case my tomatoes had the urge to grow 12 feet high. These along with clamping rings and tomato food came from a gardener’s supply company. Then I mail-ordered three heirloom tomato plants which I dutifully planted inside the water rings and carefully watered every single day. It turned out to be a spectacular tomato season. Those three plants produced more tomatoes than my husband and I could possibly eat. We took the rest of the crop to family, friends, neighbors and meetings – especially the huge ones that turned purple and sweet when ripe. It was like those plants decided to show God their true potential.

The flush of success brought on by a spectacular crop fueled my ego and propelled me into this year’s growing season. However, a kind of delusional thinking began to set in. I began to ask myself, why did I need three plants when two would probably do just as well; why special-order them when I can go to the local hardware store and buy them? So I planted the two hardware store plants inside the water rings. When it came time to feed my, by now, orphan plants and clamp them to the frames, I was preparing for a trip outside the country.

Young Woman GardeningI felt far too busy to do my farm chores. In my defense, I did make sure they were watered. Let’s fast forward — after some jet lag recuperation, I made my way to the back yard to check on the tomato plants. I can admit I was shocked. What greeted me were plants that were, by now, far too mature to reposition onto the frames without breaking them. They would now have to be content with sagging to the soil beneath them, which effects tomato production. Instead of the properly fed robust yellow flowers, the baby makers, that greeted me last year, there were just a few flowers here and there. It was obvious there would only be a few pieces of fruit to grace our salads, let alone extras to share with anyone. I had to ask myself how I could have expected the same results as last year without a commensurate effort. The honest answer? Somehow, I did.

I like to think I can gain something even from delusional thinking. As I was pulling a few weeds it came to me that we can approach our spiritual lives in the same way I approached those tomatoes.

We want to have a spiritual relationship with God, and we understand what we need to do to have it – pray, meditate, study and act. We start out dedicating the time to do it, but then modern life distracts us with all the surrounding busyness. We content ourselves with lying in the dust of our own perspective, without the spiritual food, support and guidance that God and faith can provide. Then, one day, when our problems and burdens seem oppressive, we remember. Gratefully, we humans do not have to wait for someone or something to feed their spirits – we can mercifully turn to God at any time. This prayer offers a great way to return home:

My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life, I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance which hath flowed forth from the Pen of the All-Merciful.

O Divine Providence! All existence is begotten by Thy bounty; deprive it not of the waters of Thy generosity, neither do Thou withhold it from the ocean of Thy mercy. I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of the kingdom of eternity. –Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 19.

I am now dedicated to redeeming myself with my tomato plants, and will give them the proper respect and attention they deserve – after all, I may need to know what they have to impart in the future.

How do you like them tomatoes?

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