Not being a gardener by natural intuition, I have had a propensity to plant things in less than ideal places and in less than ideal conditions. All a plant needs I learned in grade school science classes: dirt, sunlight, and water, right? With this unimpeachable wisdom I have destroyed many an unsuspecting specimen of innocent flora. And destroying plant life can become an expensive hobby. My lack of foreknowledge and pre-planning has caused me a certain amount of anxiety over my green (sometimes brown) friends. As one insightful person once put it, rather than the conventional “ready, aim, fire!” kind of gardener, I tend to be more of the “ready, fire, aim!” variety. I like to think of my ‘scapes’ as controlled chaos, which at times may be more chaos than control. Then I get disappointed when I find my beauties are just not living up to my grand expectations. Too much sun, too much shade, too much water, too little water; why does life need to be so picky?! So I uproot my little designs to rearrange their environment, water others, improve the quality of the dirt overall, little by little. I invest in soaker hoses, and then I can’t divine where I’ve planted them, so they end up with punctures and ruptures as I try to plant over them. Does any of this sound familiar…to anyone? Autumn comes and I’m happy about the plants that have survived the brutal late southern Missouri summers (as well as my decidedly lacking gardening prowess) , while other plants seem to just give it up and die off.
Sigh, yet another failure. Mulch what I can to protect for the winter season and retire the tools until spring with a certain determination to try, try again.
Then March and April finally arrive, and with it tiny green things begin to emerge, miraculously, unexpectedly, where apparent death had conquered just a few months before! And not only do they emerge, but explode onto the scene, taller, stronger and more vibrant than when first planted! I guess some living things are just made to keep living, despite my inexperience and ignorance. And, of course, others don’t. But I have an important hypothesis: if the roots are good, the plant will try again, because that’s the way it’s designed.
I have also learned, am learning, and will continue to learn, the importance of working with, not against, the natural environment. I can increase the soil quality, I can irrigate (until my dear husband frets over the water bill), but I cannot control the sun, the rain, or the temperature. God may have put me in charge of a few things, but the weather is not one of them. And evidently working with the environment would include: a) being flexible, b) considering my timing, c) increasing my creativity, and d) seeing the beauty and usefulness in what God supplies in my particular garden, even if at first it appears inconvenient or uncomfortable. Incorporating these four components—skills they are actually—will not only increase the productivity and loveliness of my garden, but also decrease the stress and anxiety associated with my new hobby.
Now, God has a time-honored way of communicating with us on what could be coined as a “natural level”, in the sense that what we see in nature corresponds many times with lessons that are extremely applicable to life in general. The tangibles can help us to understand the intangibles. For starters:
- Lack of knowledge has a way of messing things up. I realize that is not a nice theological way of putting it, but if for any appreciable length of time you have been a card-carrying member of your local garden club, (or of the human race for that matter), you understand this concept. There is biblical precedent to back it up. In the Old Testament, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (1) Yes, well, clearly this includes my plants. But of infinitely greater significance, our lack of knowledge, wisdom, and insight can severely and adversely damage those around us. Human relationships are costly, and foresight is expensive than hindsight. I need help, I need correct information, but recognition of my need is the first step toward wise cultivating in my personal people-garden. (For what it’s worth, one my on-going prayers is that God would grant grace to those who have to encounter me in any way today…)
- I understand—yes, even me—that roots do more than hold a plant down should the gravitational pull of the universe change. There’s the hydration issue, the nutrition issue, and even the reproduction process in some plants is in the roots. I am told there are plants that, because of the way they are designed in their root system, are made to die off just up top, and relax for a while underneath the warm soil until it’s time to make their way to the surface again. My husband, Bob, who has an alphabet of letters behind his name with his multiple science degrees, gave me a fancy name for this, but I’ve since forgotten it. It’s the idea of programmed rest that I’m interested in—what appears to be dead is merely dormant, and given time and patience, and adequate supply for basic needs, it will return and flourish. That’s the way it’s made. People are amazingly resilient also…amazingly. What seems to be dead, whether a dream or a vision or perhaps even a relationship, may only be dormant. When God, as our Master Gardener, plants a root, we have only to nourish with faith and water it with patience, and what He has planned for that root will erupt. That’s the way we are made. I love how the Amplified Version puts it: “I [God] create the fruit of his lips, and I will heal him, make his lips blossom anew with speech in thankful praise.” (2) It’s all about timing—God’s, not mine.
- And concerning those roots, I sense that I have some responsibility in acquiring and properly using that aforementioned knowledge. This includes working WITH my environment, and not against it. Compromise is not always a bad thing, and as a wise wit once penned: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break.” Jesus didn’t demand an air-conditioned conference hall and catered lunch for his hillside audience of 5000, but did just fine with rural setting and a few donated loaves and fishes. (3) I would say that also qualifies as pretty creative. And as much as I would love to have a full scale garden of blooming beauties, patience for the proper timing is part of the program. So many times I want what I want…NOW. How I thank my Lord for what I sometimes have regarded as a ball and chain, but has actually turned out to be a life-saving anchor! Granted, it can seem inconvenient and heavy at first, but the benefits are enormous.
And so I love spring all the more as remarkable rebirth occurs sometimes to my delighted surprise, but I also find an increased appreciation of winter—not just a season of death as so many have unkindly marked it, but a season of rest and rejuvenation. Such wisdom could only come from the mind of the Master Gardener, the One who planted the first garden, the One from whom I can learn as I dig about and get grass-stained in my own garden of life…if I will but make myself teachable.
–signing off for now—-dawnlizjones
- Hosea 4:6
- Isaiah 57:19
- Matthew 14:13-21