In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. “It is the smallest of seeds,” Jesus says. “Yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”Jesus suggests that the nature of God’s work is to grow. It doesn’t matter where we start; we can still grow into something mighty and strong. If a tiny seed can grow into a nourishing fruit, a spectacular tree or a beautiful flower, Jesus says, the same is true of our lives and communities. This is the vision that God has for us and wants us to have for ourselves.I rarely think of myself as a nourishing, strong, beautiful person. Certainly I aspire to be all of those things. In fact, if Jesus’ words are true, I already am.Think about it. A seed has all that it needs to be transformed into a tree. It splits, pushes towards the sky, and grows — and grows and grows and grows. This is an exciting picture of life in God’s kingdom. It is not a kingdom of complacency or static existence. It is a kingdom of growth and transformation. Growth in God’s kingdom does not mean we will never find fires or storms that threaten us. But with the grace of God we will survive and grow beyond these challenges.So maybe it is impossible to imagine what our lives will ultimately become if we continue to follow Jesus and live in his kingdom. You may already see this truth in your own experience. Looking back, how much better is your life than you would imagine it will become?Growth is exciting, but it isn’t easy. There is resistance — gravity, the weight of the earth, poor conditions or bad weather may put a tree or plant at risk. But it is also what strengthens us.While browsing for some reclaimed wood for a construction project, I found a piece with rich texture, and a sliver of black nestled among the many rings that showed its age. When I brought it to the counter, the cashier looked at it, pointed to the black streak and said that the tree the beam came from must have survived a fire years ago. Growth in God’s kingdom does not mean we will never find fires or storms that threaten us. But with the grace of God we will survive and grow beyond these challenges — into something fruitful, strong and beautiful.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]