“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its roots may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.” Job 14:7-9
A few months ago, my husband and I pulled up an entire bed of irises. They were beautiful and had been planted long before we moved to our home. We enjoyed them, but they were in a place that we had other plans for.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted… Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
We didn’t let them go to waste, however. We transplanted them to another spot, just a few yards away. It was hard to see them go from the vibrant, standing-tall plants to drooping and browning. As I watered them, I found it difficult to remember what they once were, or to imagine what the future might hold for them again someday.
Quite honestly, they didn’t look like much. They looked like dead roots in recently upturned soil and there was not much else visible to promise anything more.
Not too far from where we moved the irises, I have another plant, a butterfly plant that, by spring, appeared to be dead. The only evidence that a plant had been there was a bunch of dead twiggy branches and the indentation in the ground where the water would pool at the roots. This plant, like the relocated irises, did not look promising. I cut back the dead parts and kept watering, hope against hope.
Sometimes the dead parts need to be pruned away before the living parts can really live.
“’I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2
As I was watering the yard, going from broken ground and dry roots to the place where no more than a skeleton of a plant appeared, I began to grumble to myself, wondering if I was wasting time and water. I was thinking about how I wanted a beautiful yard now and how hopeless it must seem to be watering the dry and dead looking plants!
…A tree is an underground creature, with its tail in the air. All its intelligence is in its roots. All the senses it has are in its roots…. (Grammar book:Our Mother Tongue).
But, in the back of my head, coming from deep within my heart, was this heart-stirring truth that reminded me that it is in the faithful caring and watering that true life and beauty comes. That, the things that look lifeless, might really be alive in the places where I can’t see. I am reminded that what is living (often the unseen part, the roots underground) is really the most important part. I considered the fact that if I don’t plant and water today, even when I cannot see any results, I will never have the garden I am hoping for. I will someday look at the irises and butterfly bushes and roses (and all the other plants struggling for survival under my black thumb), and know that, at one time, they were smaller than some of the weeds growing nearby…but that in the perfect time, their beauty burst forth.
This watering, it is a partnership of obedience and of faith. I cannot just decide that I want a beautiful iris plant and not water or care for it, especially in the beginning stages of growth and regrowth. Obedience comes in the doing, the actions I take each time I water and plant and work the ground. I am exercising faith when I know that the One Who created these plants to begin with will quicken the life within.
I also considered how easy it would be, not to mention visually satisfying and immediately gratifying, to run to the nearest lawn and garden store and buy all the plants I want for the yard in one crazy trip. How in one day my yard could go from dust and weeds with a few plants struggling for existence, to a bit of my own Eden. Not only is this not fiscally feasible, but since I am still learning the ins and outs of gardening, it probably would not end well for those poor plants. It would be the easy way, at times maybe even considered a good way, but it wouldn’t be the best way. It would require no discipline, learning or work from me.
Just as quickly as my Eden flourished, it could wither away.
And as nature so often causes me to do, I began to think about my life and how these lessons apply to it. How those things which seem to be as dead as the twigs or as uprooted and uncertain as those newly transplanted bulbs, they might actually be full of life in places I can’t see.
Life that is just waiting to break through might be just a growth spurt away.
I thought about how I want all the beauty and greenery of life now without the watering, work and waiting but how that not only isn’t the best option, it isn’t how things work. How so many times I wish I could run to the “lawn and garden store” of life and just get all the DIY stuff to fix all the problems and call it good and how that good wouldn’t really be good for me at all.
Those kinds of quick fixes and shortcuts, they lead to shortcut results. It might not be apparent right away, or from the surface view, but it always comes out eventually.
The irises in my yard are beginning to green again, and some are even standing tall already. All of them are taking root. Someday, hopefully in the next year or two, they will even bear flowers again. And they will be planted exactly where they are meant to be, where their beauty can best be appreciated and enjoyed (unlike before, where they were often forgotten about and trampled on).And that butterfly plant? One day, as I was watering the hole where the plant once stood, I noticed some green sprouting from the remains of the twigs. Perhaps, I thought, it was just weeds taking advantage of my watering. I cleared away anything I knew to be weeds and I kept up the watering. A week later it was confirmed, my dead plant was very much alive. It was growing and living and even had a small, tiny, flower blooming at the end of one new shoot.
Life overcame death, and hope was rekindled again. .
Now, I’ve had enough plants die on my watch and in my yard to know that not every plant that I faithfully (sometimes stubbornly) water will come back to life. The point isn’t that I can just hope and wish and water and make things turn out my way. The point is that I see evidence from all parts of nature, that not only is there is a process and a way, a natural law about life, but there is One Who has written those laws.
“The laws of nature are written in the folds and faults of the earth. By encouraging men to learn those laws one can lead them further to acknowledge of the Author of laws.” John Joseph Lynch
I’m beginning to understand that there are seasons to life, and the process of those seasons is the story that makes me, that makes my life. So often these seasons I have no control of. I don’t get to choose when it is sunny, or when the storms come. This fact, without the knowledge of One greater than me, can lead to hopelessness and despair. But, when I see each season, each flowering bud and each dying branch as part of a bigger picture, a picture being painted by the hands of a loving and sovereign God, it gives me a new perspective. From this place, I can choose how I live, how I love and where my hope is found as I live through these seasons. I can choose Life. A life full of seeking and knowing the One Who created not just the iris or the butterfly bush, but me and you. A life that discovers daily that He has established a purpose in every season of life. This purpose is one that isn’t just practical, or useful, or impersonal but one that will prove to be impactful and beautiful for His Glory and my good…in His timing.
…He has made everything beautiful in its time….”Ecclesiastes 3:11