“I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener…” John 15
Our faith grows strongest during difficult times and this year has turned out to be a challenge in ways most of us simply did not see coming. But God knew.
I often pray while I walk, listening to what the Lord shows me along my way. During the lockdown time, the outside seemed quieter and calmer; flowers, plants and trees had space to grow, birdsong could be heard. The air smelled cleaner and my head felt clearer. While walking with our dog, Jack, I could forget the chaos in the world and step into an oasis of Spring growth to reflect on my own thoughts and prayers.
Many Christians have recently drawn closer to our Lord; He is our strength and tower in the storm. Our faith is sharpened during times of trial and it is often in the hardest of places that we meet Jesus most intimately. We can rejoice that our Father really does shine in the darkness and He turns things round for good for His children.
As the days of Spring passed, day after another and walk by walk, I enjoyed seeing nature wake up with the warmer season. Trees appeared greener, blossoms in pink, lilac, white or yellow sprung up round corners and over walls. In early April, the daffodils were almost gone but then there appeared more crocuses and bluebells than I ever remember compared to previous years. I was sad to see them wither after a couple of weeks. Then buttercups grew tall and kept good company with daisies and dandelions.
By June, the grass had grown longer and thicker, nettles and brambles began to creep across the pathways. Wildflowers flourished amidst the dense growth and my favourite was a bright pink rose growing flamboyantly alongside a high bramble bush. The vivid rose bud petals stood out marvellously but the intermingled stems of the two types of bush would have been hard to separate. It reminded me that we are like that in the world; as Christians we are salt in the world, light in the darkness, the aroma of Christ to those being saved. Only God knows how and when to separate the weeds from the good fruit.
I like to see long grass, where nature has been allowed the freedom to grow. Some people complain about the green areas left untrimmed by the council. But take a closer look and you will notice the dreamy dandelions, the bright buttercups, the purple thistles. Bees rely on nectar from flowers, including the wild ones, especially the wild ones. I am sure there are many more creatures also depending on their habitat in the tall grass. A lawn mower would send them scurrying for their lives. I often marvel at the creation of wildflowers. Before and besides any landscaped and carefully manicured gardens, there were flowers designed by God and given life in the untouched countryside. They do not require a gardener’s hand nor topsoil. Wildflowers have everything they need, the warmth of sunshine, the refreshment of rain and the shelter of long grass. They are one of God’s creations which flourish without the interference of man.
At times, my faith with God is like that. Just like a wildflower grows by itself, I hear God for myself in ways that are individual and private for me only. One of His names is ‘El Roi’, which means ‘He sees me’. God sees me and knows every hair on my head and has my name written on the palm of His hand. He will never leave me nor forsake me. Like a flower in the grass, I can grow at the pace and with the character which God created me for. Just as God made flowers of different varieties and colour, He made each of us with individual personalities and talents, even our own prayer language if we ask. As flowers are designed to lean towards the sun for the goodness of light, we can look to God in prayer and worship, for guidance and protection.
I am like a flourishing wildflower and God will always look after me. But, like a protective gardener, He wants me to grow to my full potential. He does not want to leave me alone in the wild. He wants me replanted, grafted in for His purposes and for my benefit. I often dwell on how He does this while I look after my own garden.
We have a small garden with carefully chosen flowers, bushes and plants which are easy to maintain. But there is still a little work needed to take care of it all. I often remove weeds and dead flower buds, trim back damaged or diseased leaves and overgrowth. I spray the rose bushes to prevent bugs and brown spot and put up sticks and frames to guide honeysuckle and jasmine. If we listen, we can hear where God wants to trim us back and redirect our growth. Let Him cut off the dead leaves and guide our life. Like flowers landscaped in beautiful detail, God has a position and a plan for each of us, for the glory of His bigger picture.