If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.
I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:
Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.
Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.
I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!
There’s only one problem:
Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.
I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.
But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.
If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.
Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.
Gardeners know that every plant species has its own personality.
Some are easygoing and low maintenance; they’ll happily bloom wherever you plant them.
Others, however, are stubborn and picky. They simply will not cooperate when you try to transplant them.
When they’re comfortably settled in the soil they call home, they’re highly resistant to being moved. They might as well have a sign hanging on their branches that says, “Do Not Disturb.”
I found this out the hard way with some columbines in my yard. Try as I might, I can’t get them to transplant successfully to another location. It’s like they’d rather die in protest than go along with my plans.
We may not want to admit this, but some of us are a lot like my columbines.
Sometimes God wants us to make a major change in our lives to carry out His purposes and plans. It may be to change where we live or what we do.
But we often stubbornly resist His instructions. We dig in our heels in protest at any unwanted disturbance to our lives, even if we know the new course of action is something God would like us to undertake. We simply refuse to cooperate or obey.
If you’re a young seedling trying to survive, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be set upon by a cutworm.
Gardeners know this all too well. We start seeds indoors early in the season, with grand visions of the sturdy and beautiful plants they’ll eventually become. We baby the seedlings and give them just the right amount of water and light to set them on their journey to a bright future.
But then, soon after we’ve planted the seedlings in their forever home in our garden, disaster strikes.
The dreaded cutworm arrives in the night and stealthily attacks our precious young plants. It eats through their tender stems at ground level, cutting them off at the knees, as it were.
When we eagerly bound outside in the morning to check on the progress of our young charges, we’re confronted with a garden plot that has been laid waste in the most cruel way. Severed young plants lie helplessly wilting, cut off from the roots supplying them with sustenance. There is no hope for them now: they will surely die.
What makes it worse is that the cutworm hasn’t even bothered to eat the whole seedling, like a rabbit would: it seems to have acted out of sheer spite.
The cutworm has done its worst, and all we can do is mourn.
I’m overdramatizing this, of course, but the frustration, anger and sense of powerlessness gardeners feel when faced with the cutworm’s nefarious deeds are very real.
Even if you’re not a gardener, you’ve probably experienced emotions like these in your life. I’m sure we all have.
Because there will always be people trying to cut you down to size.
Have you ever noticed a flower growing in a peculiar spot in your garden and wondered, “How did that get there? Did I do that?”
You might see a rogue tulip popping up incongruously in the middle of your lawn.
Or you do a double-take when you see a cluster of flowers flourishing in the corner, but you have no recollection of having planted them there.
In some cases, squirrels might be the culprits. They’re notorious for unearthing tulip bulbs and burying them someplace else for future consumption, only to forget about them.
At other times, you might have tried growing something yourself from seeds but they never seemed to germinate. You give up and completely forget about them. A few years later, however, flowers are blooming in that corner after all, to your great surprise.
The same dynamic is sometimes at play when we plant “seeds” in someone’s life.
If you’re a gardener, you know that when you plant seeds in the ground, you can expect results.
Not every seed will germinate, but a great many will. So you need to make preparations beforehand.
For instance, if you’ve planted seeds of climbing plants, you’ll need to provide something for them to cling to as they grow upward. Even if your pea or bean seeds haven’t germinated yet, you still might prepare some trellises or stakes for their eventual growth.
You wouldn’t think of not getting ready for the emergence of your seedlings and adult plants, would you? You have faith that they’re on the way.
Isn’t it funny, then, that when we pray and ask God for things, we often don’t really expect we’ll see any results?
Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:
Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.
One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.
Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.
The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.
The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.
And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.
It’s an awesome feeling to realize that you’ve got a second chance, isn’t it?
A friend of mine discovered this after moving into a house with a large garden this summer. A beginner gardener, she was delighted to finally have enough space for an extensive vegetable garden. She immediately planted some tomato and cucumber seedlings, which grew vigorously and are now producing ripe veggies.
Because she’d moved in mid-summer, however, she lamented that she’d missed the chance to start growing vegetables like beets, spinach, peas, and carrots from seed in spring. She knew that cool-weather-loving veggies like peas wouldn’t thrive in the summer heat. She figured that if you didn’t plant those seeds in the spring, you’d missed your chance for the whole year.
But the garden, like God, often gives us second chances.
I told my friend that she could actually plant those seeds now for a fall harvest. There was still time to grow a second crop before the frosts of November hit. She hadn’t missed out after all: she could still grow the cool-weather veggies she’d hoped for.
What a wonderful metaphor for how God deals with us!
As a gardener, I must admit that I prefer using the common or folk names for flowers. These sometimes-ancient names are often whimsical and enchanting, like “Miss Willmott’s Ghost,” whose origins we explored last week.
Who wouldn’t love calling flowers by such names as cherry pie plant, lady’s slipper, love-in-a-mist, baby blue eyes, bachelor’s button, quaker ladies, whirling butterflies, johnny-jump-up, busy lizzie, or candytuft? It makes the heart sing to use endearing names like these.
The scientific or botanical names for flowers, on the other hand, can seem daunting. They’re usually derived from Latin, and while they can give a more accurate description of what a plant’s nature is, they can sound a bit intimidating to my ears.
In fact, some botanical names actually sound like a disease:
“Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got Scabiosa again.”
“That’s nothing! You should see my sister’s Myosotis: it’s rampant.”
“You don’t say! But did you hear about Kelly? She’s got Nepeta nervosa.”
“No! Is she seeing a psychiatrist for that?”
(In case you’re wondering, Scabiosa is the botanical name for the pincushion flower; you might know Myosotis better as the little blue forget-me-not; and Nepeta nervosa is a type of catmint.)
I’m so glad that we have the opportunity to use informal names for the flowers we cherish.
In the same way, believers have been given the great privilege of using a remarkably intimate name for God: “Abba Father.”