Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Tomatoes in the basement

Tomatoes in the basement

In the cellar to get laundry, I am once again surprised by the sight of ripe cherry tomatoes.

These are volunteer plants in the “garden” above. Each year, the vines find the same window well to snake down into. In previous years, the subterranean harvest has been more impressive.

This morning, the tomatoes start me imagining.

What if I only knew life in a basement? My only taste of tomatoes would be ones from a can. Though you might consider that a sorry state of affairs, I wouldn’t. I’d still describe their flavor glowingly. I wouldn’t know how much I was missing.

Until one grew down into the window well.

That is the challenge the writers of Scripture faced. How does one describe a fresh tomato to those who have only tasted canned? It’s why Jesus spoke in parables. The kingdom (something far more glorious than you can imagine) is like this thing you already know (pale by comparison, but a good starting point).

Paul uses the word surpassing seven times in his letters. One gets a sense that he is struggling to find words to describe how beyond the reality of the Kingdom is – “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” (Eph. 3:19) He’s just trying to give us a taste of the reality he’s already sampled.

This is why we need artists and metaphor-makers in the church. We need people to help us imagine -- people who can plant a seed of an image in our minds until it snakes like a vine down into our hearts.

As I pack for yet another week on the road, it’s nice to be reminded by that little cluster of tomatoes – and by visionaries like Paul, as well as artists throughout the ages -- that true reality is not just our daily grind. Even life’s greatest moments are just a foretaste.

We can scarcely imagine how sweet it is.

Lord, thank you for the reminders you give us, both in your word and in the world around us, that life in your kingdom is exceedingly greater than we know. Give us gifted people to help us understand.

Thoughts or comments on this column? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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