I’ve mentioned before that it’s a struggle for me to keep things alive. If a plant is supposed to blossom, I usually have a talent for giving it just too little or even just too much water, resulting in brown-edged leaves, droopy stems, fallen petals. Maybe I should’ve paid closer attention in Freshman Biology. It’s taken me too long to learn how to care for a window box of flowers, but this summer, I managed to keep the front of my home in full bloom. While Jack watched his cartoons in the morning, eating his squash pancakes, I would throw on my crocks and begin the routine of filling the watering can 4 times, going back and forth across the living room with water sloshing a bit onto the rug and Jackson saying “Mom! I tan’t see!” as I quickly sashayed across his view of the television. I was faithfully committed to my flowers, and I watered and pruned them all summer, caring for them like they were my babies.*
I’ve reached a point in my spiritual walk where I realize that everything I do has spiritual significance. More than ever, I feel like everything I do matters. Everything I do is some part of my conversation with God. Perhaps this sounds cliche, but I seriously connected with God when I watered the plants every morning. It was powerful for me, because I’m realizing that God created us to be deeply connected to soil, plants, food, and abundant life. It’s part of our separation from animals: we are the caretakers, the overseers. And if I can keep one small yard’s worth of plants thriving, I feel like I’m honoring the Lord in a meaningful way. Most mornings, I didn’t want to get the watering can and go through the back-and-forth routine. I didn’t want to get wet, or lift the heavy bucket up to the hanging baskets, or get stung by a bee, or get muddy or pricked. I didn’t want to see that some flowers had died, despite my careful attention. And I was tired of watering my hydrangeas every…single…day…without even one hint of a flower.
Day after day, I dumped a bucket of water on these, hoping that they would bloom and be breath-taking. I wanted to see cloud-like hydrangeas, spilling over one another, waiting to be cut and placed in a vase on my table. Hydrangeas are some of my favorite flowers. I’m always drawn to houses that have them in front. They are delicate, but also big and bright. They grow in huge families of flowers which makes them even more beautiful. I love their ruffles, their smell, their pinks, purples, and blues. Every day, I waited to see a hint of a flower, a sneak preview. But all I saw were huge green leaves, practically making faces at me.
Finally, near the dirt, buried under the huge palmish leaves, I saw some bright, pink color pop through.
I’m not sure why the first ones had to be practically on the ground. And I’m not sure how they started to turn brown so quickly. (They never did make it to a vase on the table). But I at least had the motivation to keep sloshing and pouring into these massive green plants, hoping that before the first frost I can see a reward for all of the watering effort. But even though I didn’t need proof in the first place (plants WILL produce flowers or fruit eventually), and even though I had proof I didn’t deserve in the first place (the ugly pink/brown/hardly seen flowers in the grass), I got angry at the plant for not impressing me, for not blooming when I wanted it to. For making my house plain and green rather than voluminously colorful. For wasting my time.
I can hardly even begin to think how many ways in which this little lesson applies to my life. I can’t even imagine the hilarity or frustration God must feel sometimes when I’m stomping my feet, expecting a plant to grow faster than a plant was designed to. I can’t imagine how ridiculous it seems to Him that I think watering these two hydrangeas every morning is hard work rather than a complete joy and privilege. The moment I expected something selfish and unrealistic, I lost the joy and purpose of completing the God-given task at hand. “Take care of the earth”. I did, I enjoyed it, but I ruined it so quickly with my own little wants.
God could have struck down the plant, burst in into flames, or just allowed it to wither completely. He would have had a really good point. But, a few days ago, I trucked out to the front porch to find this:
This is a different color…that came in different timing…but isn’t she just breath-taking??
It’s nearly October. The weather will probably shut down the flowers before they can even get here. But something tells me that next year’s will be even fuller, even more vibrant and lovely, if I keep on watering.
I don’t know what your watering can journey is like, what you’re slaving over, what you’re pouring yourself into. Maybe you finally see some flowers, but they look dead and lifeless. Just remember, the plant will bloom. And you’ll probably be more impressed and over-taken by the beauty because you waited, you toiled, and you worked for every single petal.
*Well, my ambitious backyard flower project that I wrote about didn’t turn out so well in the end. The plants are still hanging on, but I didn’t make the time to care for the front yard AND the back yard plants. I’m a beginner, after all.