When Jesus speaks to the crowds in the Gospels, He often utilizes parables as a teaching tool. These short stories often involve plants. This liturgical cycle, mustard seeds, weeds, and sowing seeds make frequent appearances.
I never thought the plant analogies in the Gospels were that powerful until I started growing and taking care of plants in my own home.
I’m new to the gardening world – and I don’t have a natural knack for growing things. I’m the type of plant person who accidentally threw away her orchid because she thought that once the blooms died, the plant wasn’t worth keeping around. But this summer, I’ve dove back into the plant care world with some potted plants.
I never thought that watering little potted herbs or the orchid on my window sill would lead me closer to the Lord, but He works through His creation to bring our souls closer to Him. Here are three lessons that the greenery around my home has taught me about my relationship with God:
1. Our souls (and plants!) need regular nourishment
Since becoming a plant owner, I’ve incorporated watering plants into my morning schedule. After breakfast and feeding our pet rabbit, I head out to the porch and then to the window sill with water in tow. It’s easy to tell when my schedule slips – dry soil and drooping plants remind me of the importance of their regular water schedule.
Just like plants, our souls need regular care. We cannot subsist spiritually if we don’t nourish our relationship with the Lord.
After watering and checking on my plants daily, I realized that my soul deserved better care than the care I was giving the plants. So, encouraged by the green growth on my window sill, I rededicated time in my schedule to sit in silence with the Lord in the morning. It’s been beautiful to watch my interior life flourish with that dedicated time of nourishment.
2. Growth requires patience
When I planted little cilantro and basil seeds this spring, I couldn’t have been more impatient. I checked daily on the little pots, hoping for a sign of life. But it took weeks before even the tiniest green sprout popped up through the soil.
Often, in the interior life, we can grow frustrated at the amount of time it’s taking to grow in our relationship with God. But as the spiritual master Saint Francis de Sales wrote, “Have patience with all things but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that.”
3. Pruning is painful but life-giving
After a long stint of forgetting to water the plant on my porch (told you I’m new at this), our little plant was showing serious signs of neglect. Its branches drooped, its leaves were dried out by the summer sun. Brittle flowers hung on for their dear life, but it seemed like death was approaching for my once-flourishing plant.
It wasn’t until a friend commented on my lack of pruning skills that I realized I could bring the plant back from the brink of death. With a pair of kitchen scissors (again, not a professional by any stretch of the imagination), I trimmed away the dead leaves and plucked away the decaying flowers.
It would have been easy to put away the scissors, to let the plant live or die as it pleased. But without the pain, the plant couldn’t grow. Without a clearing away of the rotten and dead, new life can’t sprout.
The plant now is healthier than ever. Bright purple and orange blooms returned and the leaves are now a gorgeous, lively green.
Pruning the plant involved a lot of chopping and weeding. But after the dead branches were removed, the plant could focus on growing.
Our interior lives are similar – in fact, Scripture tells us that the Lord will prune our souls. But after that painful pruning is done, we are free to grow deeper and richer in our relationship with the Lord.
What is the result of the pruning? The peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Are you afraid of the the Father and His pruning? Abide in the reality of Christ as the vine. He tells His disciples that He is the true vine. In Greek, the word word ‘true’, alethine, translates to being dependable, genuine, and real. Christ is the true vine, the God that is going to show up and keep His promises.