So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
— 1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV
I have always loved plants and flowers but have an infamous reputation for being a killer of anything green. I’ve heard my kids warn the new plant I would bring into the house by whispering, “Your days are numbered, my friend. She’s got you now.” Every spring I would ignore their sass and jump into making my dreams of becoming a true English gardener a reality only to be defeated by slugs (twice!), ignorance, or over-watering (also dubbed water-boarding by said sassy kids). The last house we rented in a village of Croatia was owned by a true gardener who planned the design so that something bloomed all year. My job was to weed these gardens, but the blooms just showed up on their own. And I felt like a “god” peering over my kingdom, admiring all “I” had done to produce this beauty.
Riding my new high as an accomplished gardener, we moved back to the US into my mother’s house, and at the first opportunity, I bought seedlings and began stuffing things into the dirt. They all died. I bought them again – bigger and stronger plants – which then limped along until their untimely demise. I even resorted to strategically placing some fake plants around outside just to hide my failure.
God uses plants all over His word to teach us about life. The tree planted by the river with deep roots, the branch that grew tall and then withered up leaving Jonah an angry mess, the branches that get cut off when they don’t produce, the fruit of the Spirit connected to the vine, the weeds that grow up and choke out what is trying to grow. But this verse in 1 Corinthians 3:7 hit my heart afresh these days: “So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” I want to believe that our many years of fruitful ministry were because we knew how to do it right, that we invested well, we planted the right seeds and created the fruit. When we moved back, I had hope that we could create the same kind of “success” in a new soil by doing what we did before…I wanted to stand back and admire my kingdom work, but all I could see were limp, frail stalks without much hope of life.
And in the midst of my disappointment, I could hear the quiet voice of the Gardener saying, “Abide in me. Stay with me. I might call you to plant or I might call you to water, but the growth is mine.” And I have had to humbly release both the success of the past and the failure of the present, and then do the tedious job of being faithful today. To weed out the roots of disbelief, to water my soul by spending time with Him, to not opt for the fake plants in my life to impress others, but to simply obey in the little things so that God can grow what He sees fit in the right season.
ACTION: Are you in a season of blooming or pruning in your life today? Where is it difficult for you to trust the Gardener to do His work? What might it look like for you to offer Him trust and a deeper love?
Prayer: Oh Grower of my soul, it’s so easy to live as if it all depends on me. Help me to humble myself before you and live in obedience to what You call me to. I trust you to grow what You desire in my life and ministry…even when I can’t see the results. Amen.