What comes to mind when someone asks you “how are your investments doing these days?” If you have stocks or bonds, mutual funds or IRAs, you might say they are doing pretty well, certainly better than a few years ago.
But do other “investments” come to mind – – – Investments in friends, in family, in relationships in general? How are your spiritual investments going? Are you hoping for a tremendous return when you need it the most?
I’m always hoping for the waistline of my younger days. But am I investing in the proper diet and exercise to attain it? I surely don’t practice piano like I need to in order to improve my skills to play more rigorous pieces. I have all kinds of dreams, ideas, thoughts and plans that have drifted away simply because I haven’t given them the time, energy and effort needed to make them proceed or succeed. I have not “invested” in a great many of the things I would like to have seen come to fruition.
Before our oldest daughter got married a few years ago, she found a picture of a bridal bouquet she wanted for her wedding day. She wanted her bridesmaids to have similar ones. I love to garden and there were some flowers in the bouquet that aren’t always readily available to buy – – – so months before her wedding I ordered seed packets of several of the more unusual flowers and waited until the weather was warm enough to sow them. I took great care to make sure I had them planted and labeled correctly. For months I nurtured and watched as they began to grow. Mid-summer, a few weeks before the wedding, we were going to be away for a week. I was worried about leaving the flowers, but thanks to gracious and caring neighbors who kindly took care of them while we were away, they survived and thrived and were in bloom and ready to be added to the bouquets on her beautiful wedding day. If I had waited until right before her wedding to order the seeds, sow and nurture them there would have been no lovely home-grown flowers to add to the purchased ones on that very special day. If I hadn’t taken the risk of trying to grow them; spent the time, money, and worry on them; if my dear neighbors hadn’t cared for them during my absence – if there had been no investment – there would have been no sweet reward in giving my daughter something she desired for her loveliest of days.
But isn’t that how we generally live life? We want the final product, the great reward, the finest result with the least work, blood, sweat and tears possible. We want the beautiful ending without the perseverance and endurance necessary to go the distance. We want to hold onto our heart, protect our reputation, not take the risk, take care of ourselves first, safeguard our time, save our money, and not put ourselves out. We want the benefit without the cost. We don’t want to live tired, or get hurt, or be wronged.
I want my children and grandchildren around me when I’m old. More than anything, I desire them to enjoy being with me; listen to my crazy stories; relish looking through my pictures (not all on my phone); laugh at and with me as I forget, or call people the wrong name or talk about my youth. If I haven’t invested heavily in their lives throughout mine, that is not going to just automatically happen. I can’t expect them to want to be with me if they don’t know me and I don’t really know them. And knowing them – even my own children – takes time and attention, sometimes a little inconvenience and often a little risk. I must invest in their lives – their dreams, their desires, their activities, their friends – to reap the benefits in mine. I can’t wait until the perfect time or near the end to get started! It takes a lifetime of intentional, loving, focused investment.
The same is true of my marriage, my friendships, anything that truly matters. I have to be the one putting in the time, making the amends, forgiving, giving, offering encouragement, swallowing my pride, thinking about the other person first – – – I must put in in order to receive, to get back, to enjoy my “return”.
And spiritually? . . . . I just want blessing upon blessing! . . . . Who doesn’t? I want peace and forgiveness; love and grace; answered prayer; beauty for ashes; salvation from sin; the love and acceptance of my Creator; I want to be known; I want my name written in eternity; I want the greatest final return possible – to live in heaven after my life is over on earth. And what investment am I willing to make to receive all of these magnificent benefits? I can honestly say it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m all in; sometimes not so much. Sometimes I can think of nothing else; often the rest of life crowds my mind, time and daily focus. I aspire that the first things to spring to my mind and flow from my mouth to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Just like that delightful wedding bouquet, I want the luscious, godly fruit to spring from the seeds whenever I need them. But am I planting and watering, nurturing, weeding, spending time in the dirt, watching for the rain? Am I reading and learning God’s Word so it will easily come to mind when I need it for myself or to share it with others? Am I investing in God’s Kingdom or mine? Does Jesus get the best of me each day or do I give Him what’s left but expect that little bit to reap vast rewards?
Not every investment ends in a profit. There are losses associated with putting our time, talents, emotions, assets, feelings and entire lives into a relationship, a job, a hope or a dream. With no risk there would never be any great gain. It’s a part of life that we shirk – – – we protect ourselves, we hide our feelings and our talents, we don’t really give all of ourselves but only parts. We want the convenient and the comfortable. We don’t want to count the costs . . . . .
Investing is often messy and time consuming and risky. It means looking outward, considering the needs of others. It means planting the seeds, even if we don’t get to see the final bouquet.
But here’s the bottom line – – – you’ll surely never have hold of that delightful, beautiful, grace-filled, loving, ultimate bouquet if you have not first planted the seeds.
Thought to Ponder: In what or whom are you investing daily? Are you taking risks or protecting yourself? Are you planting the seeds now, consistently and lovingly, for the benefits you want to reap in the future?