I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1Corinthians 3:6-7
I have planted some things in my time, in our little yard. Several pots of New Guinea Impatiens and Mums (if you live where I live, these are no-brainers), a tree, a few azalea bushes, and the occasional basil plant. In my life, I’ve tried to plant into people as well; kindness, wisdom, and mercy, but I have definitely sown seeds of judgment, envy, and discontent along the way. I’ve planted knowledge, joy and experiences into the lives of my students, and I plant melodies and lyrics into the hearts of my church family when I sing. Into my children, I’ve planted a mixed bag of love, lessons, and well-intentioned mistakes they’ll have to weed through as they grow. My labor has not been perfect, but God knows I’ve tried. I’ve taken my job extraordinarily seriously, maybe too much so. The burden of the earnest gardener is that she can never quite know when or if the things she’s planted will bloom. I am an impatient gardener, and I’m always looking for fruit and growth that, sadly, I may never see. As Corinthians tells us: someone plants, another waters, and God makes it grow. We may plant an idea or a concept into a person that’s watered by someone else decades later. We have no control over the growing.
Still, I love watching things and people bloom. I have shared a pack of tulip bulbs with two dear friends this year and we are going to plant them in October, think about them all winter, and God willing, watch them grow this spring. Planting something like a bulb or a seed requires trust. You bury something ugly and seemingly dead into the ground and then you wait, wait, wait while the sun, rain, and melting snow seep in. In the winter we’ll think about the work that is taking place, deep below the surface where we cannot see. We will feel the parallel between those cold, dark bulbs doing their work out of sight of anyone else and our own hidden lives. We will celebrate when all of that work pokes through the surface with the sun, and we are greeted with astonishing beauty. It will feel like a miracle, because it is one.
Today, there was pruning in my little yard, as my husband cut down limbs in order to encourage the upward growth of a couple of trees. In one unruly dogwood tree, he left the branch that housed a tiny tree frog, and the one with a bird’s nest, and he was systematic, predictive, and ruthless about the rest. In life, we have to literally cut some things loose so the rest will grow, but the choices about whether and what to prune are hard ones. You don’t want to do damage and you won’t know the benefit until many months later. Pruning is made of hard, complex choices. It’s life and death, sweet frog and mama bird, dead wood and possibility. In life, it can be habits, friendships, grudges, or assumptions. You have to consider it all, then cut, hope, and pray for the best.
Pruning and planting. Though they seem like opposites, they actually hold the same quavering hope and potential. It’s beauty we first imagine, then trust, and then, one day God willing, see with our own eyes.
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