I stopped the housekeeper at the nursing home where I work just as she was preparing to pitch the plant into the garbage. Since it was destined for an ignoble end anyway, I asked if I could have it and with a look of bewilderment she handed it over. Bone dry, half of its leaves brown and dead, the other half painfully wilted and a sickly yellowish-green color, I was satisfied with my rescue. I was sure it could be rejuvenated.
The dead leaves were falling like an avalanche as I paraded it down the hall, so I stopped to wrap it in a plastic bag. I caught some puzzled looks, but one of the residents gave me an approving nod as she walked by. “Just get rid of the dead stuff and give it a good watering and it will come back.” Exactly what I thought.
When I reached home that afternoon and took it out of my car, I stopped in the yard to start pinching off the dead leaves. It was raining and that was good as the plant definitely needed the drink. After doing the best I could with the pruning, I brought the plant into the house and gave it a thorough soaking in the bathroom sink. As it was draining, I looked around my living room searching for the best place to place the plant. I finally settled on a spot at the top of a plant stand where it would get plenty of light. It was a lot thinner now that all the dead leaves were gone and still looked sickly, but I was confident that my ‘nursing’ skills would revive it.
Twenty-four hours after the rescue the plant was definitely looking much happier and healthier. The leaves were still a sickly color, but they had perked up considerably and the plant looked at home in my living room. Time and some sunshine would finish the work. I considered it a job well-done and gave myself a mental pat on the back. Mission accomplished. Or so I thought.
The next morning I looked at the plant again and noticed that it really could stand a bit more pruning. I plucked off a few more dead leaves (how did I miss those?) and turned the plant a bit on the stand; it really was quite lopsided. And wait, the soil was dry again. Hmm… maybe this was going to take a bit longer than I had thought.
And then as I stood looking at my plant, it dawned on me. That plant was a lot like me.
God took me just as I was, spiritually dry and unhealthy, and began the work of pruning and watering. Gradually, the Master Gardener has cultivated me into a respectable looking plant. I ‘look’ like a Christian. I know His Word. I have learned to delight in Him and give Him praise. I strive to serve Him and be obedient. But He still isn’t finished with me. After the initial rescue of my soul, He continues to prune and water. He gives me delightful periods of sunshine, followed by dark times of storm. And He prunes and waters. Just as my plant cannot avoid my attention, neither can I avoid the loving hand of God. Nor do I want to.
I think that sometimes we are content with our lives that are ‘hidden with Christ in God’. We see how far we have come and are satisfied. We don’t always recognize that we still have dead leaves clinging to us and parched souls that are in dire need of even deeper drafts of refreshment.
Christians are often compared to sheep; they are helpless creatures who desperately need a shepherd. May I point out that a plant is even more helpless? A plant can do nothing for itself. It is completely dependent on its owner to prune it, water it, and place it in sunshine. However, once these things have been done, we see that the plant soaks up the life-giving water, lifts its face to the sunshine, drinks in the rays, and eventually flourishes.
Did you know that the Master Gardener is at work in your life? If you belong to Him, you will be the recipient of His ongoing work in your life. Accept His work of pruning, and then allow His refreshment to soothe your parched soul. Lift your face to Him and drink in the sunshine of His love.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)