Somewhere, a few years ago, I heard it said that in some relationships, someone is the gardener and someone is the flower. Here is my response to that idea:
Once upon a time, a gardener was born. She didn’t know it when she was born that she was a gardener. She was an ordinary girl, but as ordinary girls do, she watched. She watched the men and women in her life who were gardeners already. She watched how they toiled the soil, tended to their flowers and plants, and made decisions about what to prune and what to cultivate. She saw them look to the sky and worry for rain and carefully pluck weeds that threaten their plants. The little girl saw how proud the gardeners in her life were when their work paid off and flowers bloomed into fragrant, vivid examples of nature’s miracle.
The little girl watched and watched and watched. And she grew up. And one day, she decided she was ready to be a gardener herself. She was ready to find a plot of land and dig up rows of dirt. She was ready to plant tiny seeds that she would tend daily. She was ready to watch the skies for rain and do whatever was necessary to care for her plants. She was ready to show herself and the world that she could care for a garden of her own.
She found her spot. It was small, it didn’t look like it could support much more than a few simple plants, but the girl didn’t care. She was ready. She began her work. She dug. She planted. She watered. She weeded. She celebrated the tiny shoots that sprung forth from the earth. She marveled at their growth every day. The girl spoke to her family and friends and reported how well her garden was doing. She was proud of her garden.
For a few years, her garden was fruitful. It yielded vases full of blossoms. Baskets overflowed with vegetables, bright green and red as only fresh-picked vegetables can be. She was confident in her garden and her gardening skills. She used the skills she had watched the gardeners before and they were paying off.
As her garden grew, she decided she was ready to add new plants. New varieties. Varieties that were exotic and exciting and challenging. The gardener wasn’t intimidated. She was sure that all she had to do was do her part, and her new plants would thrive and be just as bountiful.
So she got to work. She put all of her gardening effort into her new plants. She worked even harder than before. She fertilized and watered. She put in stakes to support the new growth. She researched so she could provide every ounce of care possible. At first, her work was rewarded. Wild brightly colored blossoms sprang forth from vines and thorny branches.
However, they needed constant care and attention. The gardener began to neglect her faithful, productive plants in favor of her needy new plants. She sacrificed everything she had to make them grow. The gardener lost sleep with worry. She searched for every weed and plucked it. She tried countless plant foods and fertilizers and other sworn-by remedies to help her wild plants.
The wild plants rewarded her efforts, but not in the manner that she dreamed of. The vines continued to stretch over the gardener’s faithful plants. The branches that had once yielded countless blossoms now adorned more thorns than flowers. The thorns poked and pierced and stabbed at the gardener every time she attempted to cultivate her wild plants. No matter what the gardener did, no matter what she pruned, no matter how much she cared for these plants, the thorns got her. She was convinced, though, that if she just kept trying, if she stayed faithful to her plants, she would be rewarded in the end.
Then one day, in the corner of the garden, near her faithful plants, a new plant sprang forth. One that the gardener had yearned for years. It was tiny and fragile and needed attention too. There were countless factors that could threaten the livelihood of this little plant, and the gardener couldn’t let anything happen to it. So she took her attention away from her wild, thorny, hurtful plants and dedicated herself to her new plant.
Her new plant responded to the gardener’s attention. And something else grew. The gardener’s purpose had changed. Now her purpose was to make her whole garden healthy and productive and safe for all her plants. She tried pruning the wild, thorny branches to see if they could all grow together. It didn’t work. The thorns still bit at her. The plants still demanded attention that she couldn’t give. The flowers that bloomed were tiny and wilted and didn’t last. The gardener had only one choice.
To protect her garden, to protect her plants, both new and old, she had to rip that wild thorny plant out. She had to tear it out by the roots and throw it away. She couldn’t care for it any longer. Her garden would never grow properly with that plant there. It had to go.
As soon as the plant was gone, the gardener’s soul reacted. In the space that the wild plant had occupied, the gardener placed new plants to cultivate. She discovered new things about her garden that she didn’t know existed because she couldn’t see them among the thorns. Her tiny plant, the one that she protected with her life, grew as well. Her faithful plants, the ones that had always been there, spread and flourished too. The gardener found peace and happiness in her plot of land.
For a few years, the gardener was content to tend to her garden alone. There was no need to add any new plants. She only wanted the plants that were safe for her garden to thrive. But the gardener began to look at other gardens. She saw that not all gardens had thorny branches that threatened to suffocate the life of the beautiful plants within. She watched and discovered the key to the other gardens. She saw that the most productive gardens were those that had two gardeners. Two people toiling and working. Two people willing to provide whatever was necessary. Two gardeners.
So the gardener decided that if God wanted her to share her garden, He would show her another gardener. God would show her someone else who wanted to work and toil and love a garden. Someone who wouldn’t be afraid to get his hands dirty. Someone who would work side by side with her. Someone who would respect the garden and protect it and cherish it. Someone who would never take advantage of the garden and would only work to make it better. The gardener decided that if she could find another gardener like that, she would take a leap of faith.
One of the most precious things that grows in a garden is hope. Hope in the future. Hope in the possibility. Hope in the promise that doing the right kind of work will yield more than ever imagined.
But it takes two gardeners.