Some of you may be openly weeping at the devastation pictured above. Feel free to grab a tissue if needed. Yes, this is indeed my garden. Or was, rather. Clearly I didn’t care much for common sense gardening this year… or even basic upkeep.
That is one depressing cucumber plant.
When I took notice of the state of my garden this morning, an uncomfortable feeling washed over me- a realization of something even closer to home than my own backyard: that this mess of weeds, vines, and decaying vegetables was mirroring the current state of my heart. Right now. Today.
This garden tragedy looks how my heart feels.
Living things will deteriorate when care is not taken to maintain them- most especially the human heart. Distractions keep us from noticing the gradual withering. Oh the distractions! But when did everything become so twisted and gnarled and dry? It’s difficult to pinpoint. There is no one particular moment- only a slow and steady trickle of life dripping out into the world’s abyss.
Soon enough, though, life begins to feel harder and harder to manage and we don’t understand why. We don’t recognize that we are dying. All of our heart reserves have been emptied and poured out, the point at which we are attached to our Life Source vine is beginning to crack and separate from the vine because the pathway becomes obstructed by all of life’s worries, tasks, and diversions. We become weary and tired, crawling through our days. Every issue, monumental or minuscule, begins to weigh on us like an impossible burden.
Where did the hope go? Where is the joy? What happened to love?
Jesus had something to say about this.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:1-17, NIV)
Try to sit with these verses for a minute. How much of what you do is you and how much of it is God at work through you? Where do you source your energy each day?
Set the coffee down, Linda. What else?
One of my problems is that I launch myself into the day with personal promises to be kinder and gentler and more patient. Today is a new day, I say to myself. I can do this! I am my own source of strength… until suddenly one interaction bursts into flames and spirals into more chaos, which then leads to the whole day feeling lost because my kids are acting the worst- but only because I am, too.
Mama can totally bring the drama llama, unfortunately.
Other stresses of life present themselves, too. Decisions are made without so much as a nod in God’s direction – which is everywhere- so basically we look down at our toes and say “we know what we’re doing” or “this feels right.” These thoughts have sometimes actually been enough to seal the deal on big decisions. Sad.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Pass the dynamite, please and thank you. I need to blow this pathway obstruction to hell. I am dying.
My garden may be beyond saving this year, but my heart certainly is not. “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” said the Son of God, Master of the universe.
He chose the eleven apostles. He chose me. He chose you. Do you realize what this means? HE CARES ABOUT US. My shriveled up heart. Your broken one. I want a garden heart that grows wild and free and full of fruit. To have this I must “remain in Him,” which means receiving that which He passes through vine to branch: love. I must first receive His love, accept it, bask in it, grow in it, then bear the fruit of it and share it with others.
Accept His love and grow- that’s the Gardener’s gift to all of us. And as He shapes and prunes, we need only remain in His love through the pain, sacrifices, grief, and struggles. It’s the kind of love that calls us by name. A love that would leave the flock of ninety-nine other sheep to go find the one who is lost. And once we recognize this Voice of Love within the deepest recesses of our hearts, nothing else will do. No one else will satisfy.
“3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5, NIV)
It’s not the stranger’s voice that leads to life. The stranger’s voice pushes us to distraction, working every possible angle to keep us from hearing the only Voice that wants to draw us into perfect, unconditional love. The stranger could care less about us.
But how do we recognize the Voice of Love?
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
It’s the One that draws us to truth, to hope, to life- in all things.
I am going to challenge myself to find a few moments each day over the next week to sit, invite God to sit with me, and be still- perhaps think about a scripture verse that feels significant in that moment and dwell on it. Feel free to join me in this simple challenge and share what results from your experience if you’d like.
I’m ready for my withered garden heart to be revived.
Peace & Love, Amy