I don’t have a green thumb.
My lack of gardening skills becomes quite evident this time of year, especially to our neighbors with their pristinely landscaped gardens. They really are lovely, but I just can’t seem to figure the gardening thing out.
I’ve managed to kill off some of the heartiest plants, and on more than one occasion, I’ve wondered where that “new little tree” in our garden came from.
Oh, never mind — it’s just a toddler-sized weed.
After I became a homeowner, my mom saw how helpless I was and taught me how to prune my petunia planters and do a few other basic gardening tasks. I did a respectable job at first. Nothing fancy, but I kept things looking decent. And then my husband and I added some mini humans into the mix, and I fell off the wagon in a big way.
A couple summers ago, I neglected my petunia baskets for who knows how long. My husband thought it was time to toss them, and to be fair, they looked beyond hope. But I remembered what my mom taught me, so I pulled off some dead branches, gave them a drink of much needed water and continued to prune away. My effort was worth it because they came back with several more blooms and lasted the rest of the season!
Although I may not be a natural gardener, I can see the appeal. I also appreciate the many life lessons we can draw from a garden. As a children’s curriculum writer, I’m always searching for simple yet meaningful analogies, and gardening is full of them.
One of my favorite gardening-related lessons is over 2,000 years old, and it’s from the greatest teacher of all.
In John 15:1-2,4 (NIV), Jesus said, I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. … 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.
Jesus is the vine.
We are the branches.
God is the gardener.
And a good gardener knows how to prune.
While God is pruning me in my parenting on the daily, another area that God’s working on me is in my struggle with anxiety. I know so many amazing mamas out there who struggle with this too. The “what-ifs” and worst-case thinking create a slippery slope.
But, Mamas, there is hope.
When we remain in the Vine, we’ll grow. Our worries probably won’t vanish instantly, but we can hold open our tired hands in surrender and allow God to work. When we hold the things of this world loosely, we allow God to remove the things that don’t bring us life so that we have room to grow in fruits like love, joy and peace.
Now for one more gardening analogy.
Picture an apple tree. It looks fine from a distance, but as you walk closer, things seem a little off. You pick an apple, take a bite and it’s sour. You grab another one, and it’s nearly rotten. The problem? It’s been neglected for far too long.
An apple tree won’t be as productive if it’s not pruned regularly, even though it can usually survive. However, if an apple tree doesn’t actually produce sweet, crunchy apples, it’s not doing what it’s designed to do.
I think so many of us get stuck in that place of simply “surviving.” In our high-demand, stress-filled world, it’s easy to enter into survival mode. This can be fine for short seasons, but it usually lasts for far too long. I lived there for several months after our third baby was born.
Things looked fine from a distance, but inside I was hurting.
I needed water.
I needed sunshine.
I needed pruning.
Survival mode is not what our Creator designed us for. He wants to take our hurting, tired souls and give us a hope and purpose we never imagined. He wants to grow fruit in our hearts that’s so astonishingly beautiful, we instinctively know that it’s from him.
An apple tree might look a little rough right after it’s pruned, but that’s only temporary. As a mom of three kids 5 and under, I look a little rough some days too, but that’s OK. I know God’s working.
When we remain in Jesus, we’ll keep growing. God will keep pruning as he helps us produce his fruit. And thankfully this is the kind of fruit that will grow even if we don’t have a green thumb.