This Victoria Day Weekend is the big one for gardeners. I don't have a "green thumb," but when my newly planted big, bright pink petunias garnered compliments from my neighbour who lives to garden, I was very pleased.
Somewhere about midsummer I made a shocking discovery. My showpiece flowers were in desperate trouble. The sumptuous, bold blossoms had shrunk to half their original glory. Pathetic little bugles were straining to make a show of colour at the end of spindly, elongated, lime green stems. My neighbour Cesia's mother happened to be on her deck as I reacted in horror. Babcia, in earlier years, had brought her beautiful flowers and vegetables to a garden market each week to sell. Her voice of experience asked, "Have you fertilized them?" Hmmm, no, but I did water them - occasionally. It was a sad confession.
"You need to cut them back."
I went for the clippers and snipped the blooms off as my advisor watched.
"No. You need to cut them …back!"
The elderly woman made a swathing motion with her arm and waited until I had butchered those plants, taking them almost back to the earth. It was so radical, and they were so ugly now that I removed the pots from sight. I put these impatiens in their place. What hope did they have of returning to anything worth looking at? I thought.
In two weeks a miracle happened. I was so astounded that I brought the new blooms to show on 100 Huntley Street. The stems were healthy and strong again. The blooms too were restored to the original size and splendour that had attracted me to them in the spring.
God knows I'm a visual person. His message was in those flowers. What a portrait of my spiritual health! At the time I was just as strung out as my pathetic petunias, still going and going (bunny) like the Energizer Mommy, determined to "do it all" with a frazzled heart! The blooms were too far away from their source of nourishment and abundant life, and so was I. Somewhere in a high-demand season, as a working mother with two preschoolers, I had ceased to abide in the Vine, and typical of burnout, was no longer enjoying the things that had always given me joy.
"Remain in my love… I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow" (John 15:10,11).
Jesus' words diagnosed the joy-leak in my life, and hence, the energy drain:
"…the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10 KJV).
I've since learned many wonderful lessons about gardening and have contemplated their applications to my spiritual growth. Did you know that you can prune as much as two thirds to produce a stronger, fuller plant? It's a little scary, but the miracle happens every time! That's what the Lord ordered in my overloaded, undernourished life. The details of my cutbacks through His pruning are recorded in my new book—HUGS FROM HEAVEN—God's Embrace In The Adventure of Faith.
In her book Finding Focus in a Whirlwind World, Jean Fleming writes:
"Busyness that is not God-directed and God-motivated is not God-blessed. Busyness can ravage the soul as thoroughly as idleness can. We may live in an illusory world remembering greener days, without recognizing that our zeal has waned. But if we keep busy enough the truth can't penetrate and expose our spiritual condition. Our visible external life may be laudable, but our inner spiritual life has shriveled," — just like my petunias!
Has God been trying to get your attention too? He is the perfect gardener. Why not take a moment to read John 15 for some expert growing tips. Jesus said,
"I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the perfect gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me… for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15: 1-4).