I’m a terrible gardener. A plant dies if I look in its direction. My mom, husband, and mother-in-law all have green thumbs. Plants love them. Growing up, my mom had a banana tree in the house, and a pineapple plant she had grown from the top of one we got from the store. Plants are alive in her house today that she got 15 years ago and survived two out-of-state moves.
I don’t understand it. My mother-in-law also can grow anything! Her home is surrounded by beautiful flowers and edible plants. She built herself a greenhouse and when you walk inside, all kinds of green things are growing—which she can tell you the name of each one.
I’ve been married almost five years now. In those almost five years, my husband has bought me many a plant, which I appreciate, because I love plants, especially flowers. But it has become a running joke between us that my house is where plants come to die. I even killed a cactus. Once he bought me a tulip (yellow, my favorite!), and I thought this is perfect. Now when this dies, I’ll have a second chance since it is a bulb. When the tulip withered away, I planted it in what I thought was the perfect spot according to my online research, but as far as I know, that tulip never came back up to see the light of day.
Neither I nor my husband is one to give up, so throughout the years he will occasionally bring me home a lovely plant, that will last about a month, and I continue to try to figure out how why these plants keep dying--until recently. My husband brought home a cute purple orchid, and my mom and dad gave me some succulents for Christmas. I stuck them in a window and hoped for the best.
Well, it has been almost four months and both plants are thriving! You may think I have gotten the knack of taking care of plants, but you would be wrong. I haven’t changed my approach at all. I still forget to water it for weeks, then try to make up for watering it every day for two weeks, only to forget about the existence of plants for the next three weeks after that. Yet both plants look great!
The only answer I can come up with is my house has a magic plant window. . .either that or my husband has started taking care of the plants. I’ll let you decide which one is more likely, but I’m sticking to magic plant window.
In the gospel of John, Jesus calls God a gardener. In John 15:2 it says as the gardener God “prunes” the branches that do not bear fruit “that it may bear more fruit.” God knows what the plants need. Pruning always baffled me. I watched my mom cutting back the branches of blackberry and blueberry bushes—long, leafy branches that seemed to be thriving, yet she had the plant knowledge to know cutting them back was necessary, so they could grow and produce even more.
I have also learned that plants don’t only die from too little water, on the contrary, the biggest plant killer is too much water. This all got me thinking. I have often relied on Matthew chapter 6:25 where Jesus tells us, “[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” And I have always taken this to mean God will always take care of me and give me what I need, and I still believe that is part of what we can take from this, but as I have been trying to learn how to become a better gardener, I’m starting to see a different side of this verse.
A good gardener knows when to prune, and how to give a plant the right amount of water. Too much water attacks the roots, cutting off the plant's oxygen and causing the plant to rot. Can this plant logic be applied to our lives? Maybe it is a blessing all the times we haven’t gotten all we want or even all we thought we needed. Perhaps this was a time in our life our Father the Gardener was keeping us from being overwatered or doing some pruning so we can grow more fruit.
As I look at these plants thriving in my kitchen window, it reminds me of the many ways God takes care of us and provides for our needs—maybe in ways that don’t feel like provision. Maybe sometimes he provides for our roots by keeping what we want from us.
I’ll keep trying to learn from the skilled gardeners in my life, and as I do so learn about the gardener of my life along the way.