When I moved into my apartment a several months ago, I felt an overwhelming surge of domesticity. I wanted to cook things and hang things and grow things. On my first free Saturday after settling in, I took a drive exploring the surrounding area and stopped at a roadside floral shop.
Along the corner of a crowded street, baskets full of flowers stood neatly in rows, like a little army whose sole job was to drive out all the ugliness in the world and replace it with new, springtime beauty. Boxes of individual plants stood resolutely on and under tables. More baskets spilling over with full blooms hung on displays that were built specifically for showing off.
I hadn’t browsed very long before a middle-aged woman approached and asked if I needed any help. It was pretty obvious that I did. She wore an apron that was streaked with dirt and her frizzy blonde hair was trying its hardest to escape from the precarious pile on her head.
I admitted to my inexperience with growing things and asked what she would recommend to one whose thumb had yet to change colors. She pointed out a few options and assured me that the hanging baskets I was eyeing would basically take care of themselves.
That sold me. For my sake and the sake of the plant, I knew I would need something that required very little responsibility.
I hung my prize-winning baskets on their hooks as soon as I got home and sat on my little patio enjoying their loveliness.
But I wasn’t very good at perpetuating the experience. Watering them was an afterthought that mostly came after they were nearly dead.
My roommate took them from their perches, set them at the edge of the patio and watered them far more faithfully than I did.
I would forget consistently or put off filling up the pail because I just “didn’t have the time” or was too lazy to get up and do it. I’d shrug off another day without water and wait instead for the rain to come and restore them. I periodically pulled the dead pieces from the ones that still lived, hoping that by removing the old, I would make room for new shoots to spring up.
But here’s what I learned as a plant owner: You can’t depend on someone else to water your plants and removing dead pieces doesn’t make new life grow. As long as I continue to forget to give their thirsty roots water, nothing new will spring up. I’ll just be left with a basket full of dirt and a plant that used to live.
Pulling away the dead limbs, pruning back sick leaves, and allowing dead blossoms to fall are all necessary and helpful things, but without water to nourish, replenish, and heal, I’m just tossing out symptoms of parched roots that will continue to die. I can’t just wait for seasons of rain. I have to fill up my pail morning after morning and give the poor things a drink. They have to have the water to grow.
Just like we do.
We can often get caught in the dangerous position of depending on someone else to water us spiritually: our pastors, Sunday School teachers, mentors, friends, or family members. Though those folks do often provide a refreshing bout of rain through their encouragement or discipling, they were never meant to bear the burden of keeping us alive spiritually. That’s not their job.
In the same way, it’s not your job either. If you were “dead in your trespasses,” unable to stir yourself from the cold grave of sin, chances are you probably won’t be that successful at keeping yourself alive either. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit—to sustain and nourish you through the Word of God.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself far too often trying to pull off the dead pieces of my life with legalistic hands, rather than looking to the compassionate Gardener who desires to prune AND to grow.
I haven’t been doing this long–trying to make things grow. And to be honest, I’m not very good at it. But one thing I have noticed is that every day is different. Some mornings are cooler than others. Some afternoons are soggy and others are oppressively dry. But regardless of temperature or season, the plant never stops needing water. Daily. Regularly. In plentiful gulps.
And even when they look dead, I keep watering them.
Because one cool morning, when I step out on my patio expecting to see a dead plant, I might just see instead a brave little bloom with its pale yellow face turned boldly toward the sun, rising from the wilted vines, declaring to all who pass that it isn’t dead at all. Despite its appearance or surrounding circumstances, it is very much alive.
“The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, the true Christians) say, Come! And let him who is listening say, Come! And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of Life without cost.”
—Revelation 22:17 (Amplified)