Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? It s a familiar question. The pessimist says the glass is half empty and the optimist says the glass is half full. The illustration suggests other questions about life. What if someone asks you to share whatever is in the glass? Are you blessed or needy, rich or poor? Do you choose to live gratefully and generously, or resentfully and selfishly?
The glass is half empty inspires one way of living. The other perspective (it is half full) inspires a radically different way. Yet both are based on the same objective facts: the same glass, the same stuff in it. Optimism or pessimism affects our response to a situation, and our relationships with others.
Jesus told a parable a story with a message about a sower. I can imagine Jesus watching a farmer who has a bag slung over his shoulder. The bag holds precious seeds which the sower broadcasts by hand. He tosses the seed in every direction. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
The story is about sowing seeds, but it is also about life. Imagine yourself as a sower, sharing good things with others, growing hope and helping people live meaningful lives. Sowing means, as young people say, doing stuff. It means action. It involves reaching out to people, serving, caring and risking.
Sometimes our efforts lead to hurt and disappointment. We offer our selves, our time, our energy, our caring, to others. Occasionally we wonder if it is worth it. Is anything of value going to come from our contribution? Perhaps our efforts to build a new community hall, a bigger and better arena, or an addition to the church are wasted like some of the sower s seed. Once I was asked to chair a worthy project. I soon discovered that all the work was dumped on me, and I was criticized whenever things did not meet our expectations. Jesus says Keep on sowing.
What Jesus said about problems thin soil, rocks, fat birds, thorns, weeds, whatever was old news to his listeners. Much of what was sowed was wasted. They knew that. A farmer shows confidence that, even if some seed is wasted, the harvest will surely come.
The part of the story that shocked the first people who heard it was the yield, the harvest beyond his wildest dreams. To get a crop 100 times the amount of seed sown was an amazing result in a dry, rocky land. With this vision you don t mind the rocks or birds or gravel or whatever else may get in the way. All of that doesn t matter. It is swallowed up in the promise of the whole enterprise. The positive perspective, the promise of a vast harvest, is the heart of this story.
If our efforts have not been noticed or we feel we are not getting anywhere, we may decide to give up. But if we continue trying, sometimes we will succeed. God will make more of our efforts than we can imagine.
Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon.