June 8, 2020
A few weeks ago, as I was caring for the flowers on my veranda, I started pondering how similar tending them was to discipling. I always marvel at the commonplace things God uses to show me new insights.
When I made arrangements to create the garden I wanted two things—native plants and things that took care of themselves. (Andrea always had the green thumb, and we joked that I could kill cactus and pyracantha.)
I got neither native nor…
Well, not quite true. The front flower bed is all native aloes and other succulents and they’re on a drip irrigation system so all I have to do is enjoy them. But the back? That’s another story.
I must admit, I do have some native plants like Indian Paint Brush. And some Butterfly Plant and Blue Mist—both wonderful, especially for attracting Monarchs. And I have a few plants that are low care—two varieties of jasmine, some peonies, asparagus fern and one I don’t even know the name of. But then we come to the real crux of my story...
Dianthus are beautiful, come in many colors, are a hardy perennial and are so ubiquitous in Texas gardens they are considered “native” by many people. However, they are from Eurasia. More on that later.
My current story is that I have four huge Mexican pots filled with them. And they require care.
Well, that’s not quite true either. In mass landscape plantings they do quite well on their own, flourishing throughout the spring and into fall. They even like dry soil which is perfect for Texas summers. But dianthus in pots are another matter...
You see, to flourish they need to be 'dead headed,’ watered and fertilized.
Some other time I’ll follow the rabbit trail around why, or even whether, they “need” me. For now let’s just accept the premise that if I dead head them, water them when the pots dry out and give them the proper nutrients they bloom much more abundantly.
As you have already gathered, the last thing I wanted in my garden were flowers that required tending every day. But wait...we’ve already established they do quite well on their own in mass plantings. What’s this about “requiring tending” and what does that have to do with discipleship.
Let’s start with the basics.
First, they’ve been taken out of their “native” environment. And the same is true of a new disciple. They have left their ‘old’ secular life for a ‘new’ spiritual life. They’ve moved from a familiar environment where they probably thought they were doing quite well for themselves. Now they are in one that may be exciting but it’s strange—different customs, unique jargon, unfamiliar songs and a new company handbook called “the Bible.”
Let’s chase this a little further...Remember the mass plantings in Texas? Although ubiquitous in Texas, God created them to live in Eurasia. It’s not much of a stretch to think of our original nature—created by God to live in paradise, cast out of the garden by our own greed, we live in a secular world of our own making.
(Don’t stretch this analogy too far...this meditation isn’t about original sin, but about discipleship.)
Second premise: I was ‘responsible’ for putting them in their new environment. (Wow. This meditation is filled with all kinds of rabbit trails! I love to write something about codependency—secular and spiritual.)
With those thoughts in mind, let’s shift from “them” (the dianthus) to me.
Now that they were in the pots on my veranda I had two choices:
I could leave them alone and imagine they would survive.
I could provide and care for them, nurturing them to the best of my ability.
The first option didn’t work out too well. They did okay for a while. We had lots of rain, and I was satisfied as long as there were at least a few blooms. And Stephanie came over and took care of them occasionally. But the writing was on the wall. It wasn’t going to be long before all I’d have left were some beautiful Mexican pots filled with straggly stems.
So, as I plucked dead pods amidst the blooms of the dianthus, I pondering my having taken the second option, I began wondering where God was going with this meditation. Then He really got my attention!
Diantus and the Church
Isn’t the first option the typical church reaction to newcomers? Or to any “them” for that matter.
I didn’t want those flowers anyway. Yeah, I wanted to see my garden grow and look pretty, but my daughter-in-law put those dianthuson my veranda! So I’m not really responsible for them. And besides, they’re different. Iwanted native plants, and these were from Eurasia. Let them grow in somebody else’s landscape. Do you know? I was even expected to water them because my son hadn’t had time to finish installing the drip irrigation system for the veranda.
And so the new disciple suffers the same fate as the flowers suffered from my first option. They struggle for awhile, bloom a little, then start to dry up and die.
And—if we follow this scenario—I would have looked around one day and they would have been gone. All the would have been left would have been empty pews…I mean pots.
But it wouldn’t have been my fault!
He’s revealed a lot since that fateful morning when I started paying attention to Him. Now I’m not only caring for the dianthus (and the other flowers,) I’m actually enjoying them. They’re gorgeous even though it’s more work than I bargained for.
There’s more to this, but I’ll visit it again another day.
Thanks for yonderin’ with me.
I had this meditation before the riots in the U.S. Do you think there may be a larger scope that He’s trying to teach me? I must confess, I was so focused on “the church” that—before I wrote this today—I was oblivious to the connection.
No one is as blind as those who will not see.