One summer, I traveled to Europe with Greg and our daughter. Hailing from a state where 150-year-old wagon wheel ruts can impress us, the centuries-old ruins of Europe astounded us. Yet, remarkable though these monuments were, it was the gardens that brought me, personally, the greatest joy.
First, there were the French gardens. As I toured the opulent palace of Versailles, I wondered at perfectly manicured gardens, symmetrical and geometric. Prim and proper. Elegant and stoic.
Next, there were the English gardens. As I traveled through the quaint town of Oxford, I came across random gardens, flawed and busting at the seams. Wayward and independent. Unkempt and boisterous.
The French gardens compelled me to respect the designers.
But the English ones inspired me to worship the Creator.
In designing my own garden, I’ve chosen the Oxford approach. (Although I can’t even type that last sentence with a straight face—as if I actually ever sat down and designed the thing in the first place.)
Vying for attention
Yesterday I woke up early, grabbed my old sneakers and a pair of raggedy garden gloves, and surveyed my unruly garden. It was only mid-June, yet somehow the situation had morphed from English to Jurassic, minus the dinosaurs.
If I were a better gardener (not to mention writer), I’d know the names of all my pretty flowers. I’ve got “rose” down. And “lily” (I think). But, let me just put it like this: The blooms were in rebellion.
Innocent-faced violet bells escaped through fence pickets, invading the territory of tiny magenta stars minding their own business.
Peach-colored roses overshadowed struggling coral blossoms gasping for air at their base.
Long-stalked purple brushes dueled with willowy coral feathers in a fight to the death.
Stately, white-tufted crowns all but vanished behind the yellow blanket of riotous pinwheels yammering, “Look at us! Look at us!”
And the lilies? These stood tall and proud, waving orange-gloved stalks with the self-composure of a queen in a parade, secure in their right to own the masses.
I admired their spunk, every single one of them, as they heroically vied for their place in the world. Yet I couldn’t help but think: Lovely though each blossom was, the brilliance of each was lost in the pandemonium of the whole.
So I set my face like stone and started snipping. With each snap of the blades, my weapon met its mark. Stalks crashed to the ground and petals rained down, my sidewalk a vivid battlefield of brave, fallen blooms.
It made me feel sad, even a little guilty.
Knowing it was early yet, and hoping no neighbors were listening, I began apologizing. To the flowers.
“I’m so sorry, little friends. Here you are, courageously gracing the neighborhood, perfectly accomplishing what you were created to do, giving every ounce of effort to your calling. And here I am, mercilessly hacking away at you. It’s not your fault—please know that! It’s just that your beauty will shine all the more when I’ve helped you make space for it.”
And with that, my conscience was appeased.
Also, I finally had an idea to break through my blogger’s block. And here it is:
What if …
… in the middle of a season of flourishing—when we’re exulting in our God-given gifts, serving with energized abandon, rejoicing in the fruit of our efforts—God says, “I need you to dial it down a notch”?
What if He says, “I appreciate all your work, but My glory is being obscured by all this activity”?
What if He warns, “You’re going to burn out if you don’t step away from the limelight”?
What if He points out, “The little ones in your care are getting scuttled to the side as you serve Me relentlessly”?
What if, mid-season, the Master Gardener prunes the projects and pares down the opportunities? What if He strides into our cluttered life and lops off thriving branches to showcase the new buds?
What if He—and I’m getting a little transparent here—dries up book sales? Pinches off a specific writing ministry? Temporarily relegates a job search to fallow ground?
Could it be so that, when He at last says “Now, bloom again!” this little plant’s efforts will be all the more beautiful for having been pruned by His loving hand?
Could it be? As I continue to pray the three prayers I’ve shared with you—
- Lord, till the soil of my heart
- Put me where You’ll be most glorified
- I trust You—
I’m counting on it.
Listening (more and more) for my Shepherd’s voice,