Friday, May 09, 2014

On Becoming a Gardener in God's Garden

Night blooming jasmine

In my opinion, I have no gardening skills. As is common, God may have other ideas!

The joke in my house for many decades has been that I have a black thumb. Put me in charge of any plant and I can kill it for sure. Here in California we have a weed called the bougainvillea that is really beautiful, but still a weed. The legend about the bougainvillea is that once you have the plant in your yard it takes over. Not so for this great gardener. I have managed to kill even these.

I also really despise any type of yard work or gardening. I don't particularly like any type of physical labor, have no interest in digging around in the ground, and am not great at following instructions or following up on living things. I like to start projects and then let others keep them running while I go on to the next one.

When we purchased our home 25 years ago, one of the selling features we most liked was the great landscaping put in place by the previous owner. The back yard was particularly beautiful. But given neglect and a few months habitation by a golden retriever, and you have a not so great back yard.

About 18 months ago, at a time when I was getting back on my horse after some difficult years, I decided to try and fix two plants that were in huge trouble. One was a night blooming jasmine that had built a glorious crown of white flowers on top of our patio for a few years. Unfortunately the stems winding up the patio support were such a mess that something had to be done.

Then there was a white bougainvillea that I had hoped would blend in with a red one, but which was growing completely out of control. I bought some gloves (bougainvillea have nasty thorns) and id a bit of reading online. I called my sister-in-law with the green thumb for advice.  

The Jasmine growing back

I was told that I need to remove all the incredible beauty of the jasmine that was on top of the patio cover, and cut the plant right down to a few inches from the bottom. Even though the plant was giving a beautiful display on the outside, the core was not beautiful at all. Therefore, it needed to be pruned. Then we could start over. The jasmine survived the pruning, and is now about 2 - 3 foot high, and beginning its ascent up the patio support again.

In my personal life, I feel as though I had created a lot of very nice blooms, but that maybe there was some ugliness that needed to be pruned out. God has allowed me to spend the last 7+ years being pruned and rebuilding. This time I will be keeping a careful eye on those foundations to make sure they are not allowed to take away from the potential blossoms that God has in store.

Then there was the bougainvillea. In this case I bought some garden ties and I loosely guided the larger stems in ways that would create the best result. I watched the plant daily, changing those ties as needed to allow it room to express itself, while giving gentle guidance to other branches. Over the course of a year, the plant became very full and well shaped, but the blooms had stopped. Bougainvillea have several seasons per year, but even when completely out of season still have flowers if there is enough sun. I couldn't imagine why there wasn't the reward I was hoping for.

That very morning
In this process that God had allowed me to move through, I was feeling closer to Him than ever before, and my spiritual life was showing a lot of fruit. But there were still some really important relationships that had not been restored. Even after over a year of redirecting my paths and learning how to be disciplined in places where sin had resulted in out of control patterns, I was not seeing the hoped for flowering.

Then finally, a wise counselor was able to speak truth into my heart in an area that I would have never dreamed was an issue. This wise counselor explained that this issue was for me the most important aspect of my being that was getting in my way of the greatest potential joy.

I repented of my sin, and went to those who had been hurt most by it. As part of the conversation, we began to speak in metaphors. In trying to get results in others that I believed was in their best interest, I was too frustrated to allow it to happen in their or God's timing. This is the very reason why I had always failed as a gardener. But now, I had proven that I could tenderly nurture these two plants without insisting on my outcome. The outcome was up to the plants and God, not me.

The very next day, I looked out at my bougainvillea. The flowering had begun. It was as if God had given me a huge high five for finally getting the point. Meanwhile my Bible reading that morning had been the book of James. In James 5 verse 7, it says  Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

While the context is related to the Lord's return, the lesson was still the same. Being patient with those in my life who are closest to me, and allowing them full freedom to bloom in their own way and time is a challenge for me. I have asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom and His direction in helping me to be an amazing gardener in His garden.


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