The message of Jesus finally starts to grow after years of neglect.
John A. Braun
“My family was not religious. We rarely, if ever, attended church,” Richard Bush remembers. Sundays meant something other than going to church. Yet Richard’s friend Harry was the exception. He and his family regularly attended a Baptist church. They invited Richard to come to church with them and provided regular transportation. At that time, “it was something to do” Richard says. The Sundays in church with his friend’s family was a beginning. He was even baptized there with Harry.
It was like the sower in the parable casting the seed on the ground (Matthew 13:1-23). As he looks back, Richard says, “It was like a seed on the shelf.”
Growth became difficult because Richard’s family moved to Louisiana. They rarely attended church, so the seed did not sprout and certainly did not mature. He confesses, “The seed just sat there and did not grow.”
Those early lessons about Jesus grew distant and seemed to disappear as the years went by. Military service, marriage, and family took turns occupying Richard’s time and energy. The seed remained on the shelf. He and Shelly, his wife, had two children and a 36-year marriage, before they moved to Katy, Texas.
Richard had a structured and organized mind. He is also a friendly spirit and makes friends easily. His focus in school was science, and he had a lot of questions about religion. The idea that God is triune and that he created the world didn’t make sense to Richard. But his skills helped him do well as a plant manager over the years.
But difficulties intruded into their happy life. Shelly eventually died from cancer, but even in that tragedy the seed remained dormant. Richard says, “I didn’t point a finger at God and complain. I didn’t hate God. Shelly’s death was tough, but at that time I thought that dying was just what happened. You had to go on. God works in mysterious ways.” He and his children moved on with their lives. But God had not given up on Richard. He had not forgotten him and the little seed that still lay dormant.
Moving on was not easy. After a time, a friend thought that Richard should begin to socialize. Richard didn’t know if he was ready to take that step, but his friend set up a blind date disguised as a birthday party. Richard reluctantly went, and when he discovered it was a blind date, he did his social obligation for dinner and concluded he was not ready yet. He left the date with no desire for another. Yet he went home with a telephone number from the “party” for Janet, the woman he met. It sat unused.
Then six months later, he was ready and called her. They discovered mutual interests and began a friendship. Little did he know at the time that the friendship would blossom into marriage.
But another development also was coming to pass. The seed on the shelf would finally begin to grow. Janet was a Lutheran and a member at a WELS church in Katy, Texas. She eventually asked, “Would you like to go to church?”
Richard was a little apprehensive. He says he had a “bazillion questions.” One of the biggest was still, “How could God be triune, three in one?” But he went to church, and he liked what he heard. He says he went “again and again and again.” The seed began to stir.
Slowly his question about the Trinity did not cause so much trouble for him. He began to think that millions of people believe it so there must be something to it. He was hearing the gospel, and the Holy Spirit was at work. He brought his question about the Trinity and the other questions he had to the Bible 101 class. When he asked questions, the pastor answered each one. The seed on the shelf had sprouted and began to take root. The idea of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God but three persons—began to make sense. Richard says, “Faith in Christ isn’t something that you just turn on. It takes time.”
The answers for Richard’s questions all came from the Bible. The pastor explained that it is important to read the Bible for what it means. He warned that you shouldn’t bring your own ideas on what the Bible means but you should let the Bible speak for itself. In the past, Richard had listened to other pastors give their own versions of what the Bible said, but now he heard what the Bible really said.
What impresses Richard is how well WELS pastors are trained. They know the Bible and can share its teaching clearly. He lists six WELS pastors he had come to know and gives them all high marks for their teaching and spirit. He feels that they are the key to his spiritual growth and to the spiritual growth of others.
Janet felt the need to be with her aging parents and care for them in Temple, Texas, about 150 miles northwest of Katy. The Temple congregation made them both feel welcome. There the seed that had sprouted in Katy continued to grow. Richard’s questions continued, but “it gets better and better as you sort things out, learn, and grow.”
As he looks back over the course of his life, Richard marvels at the way God took the seed from the shelf and caused it to grow after so many years. Even when it seemed to him and to others that God had forgotten him, now he sees that God had a plan all along.
Yet there’s a sad note that Jesus was left out of his life all those years. Those days have all gone by. They cannot be redone, and Richard regrets that he did not help his children to learn about Jesus. Yet he is happy now knowing Jesus and his blessings. He is active in his church and served as a delegate to the 2019 WELS convention.
When they moved to Temple, Richard bought a sailboat to sail on nearby Belton Lake. Janet was surprised by his impulsive purchase. Sailing on the large reservoir gives him time to think. In the quiet of the wind and the water, he thinks about the blessings God has given him—including the beautiful creation he has given us all.
Richard’s story comes with a lesson. He says it this way, “When you have a chance to witness, remember you are throwing seed on the ground. It may take 50 years for the seed to grow. Don’t give up. God always has plans that sometimes we don’t see or understand. There’s no limitation on when you can come to Christ.”
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019