Spring is well underway and with it the inevitable torrential downpours. Although the sun does peek out occasionally, it seems like all it does is rain, rain, rain. I'm going slightly stir-crazy from being stuck in the house, and am more than ready to get outside and bask in the sunshine.
One day recently, during a break from the showers, I noticed something as I walked to my front door. A flower pot that had previously been looking quite sad and droopy was really flourishing. The colors were bright and beautiful. The flowers, which had previously been wilting, were standing upright, full and bushy.
I began to ponder about how that flower is a significant metaphor for our spiritual lives. The rain symbolizes our trials, our dark and stormy days. No-one likes to go through these. During the tough times we long for the day when the sun will show its face through the clouds that seem to consume our existence. Yet, the rain is necessary for our growth. God uses the stormy days to refine us and bring out our beauty. After the storm, we see how absolutely essential it was for us to blossom and grow.
Scripture is also full of gardening metaphors that can teach us important lessons about our spiritual life. Here are a few of my favorites:
Just as a plant's roots will grow down deep into the soil to stabilize and sustain the plant, so we must be firmly rooted and grounded in Christ.
The root system is a crucial part of a plant's structure. The roots attach the plant to the ground and carry water and nourishment throughout. Without healthy roots, the plant will not receive the nourishment it needs. In this same way, we must stay firmly connected to Jesus as our source of growth, health, and abundant and fruitful life.
Scripture says apart from Jesus we can do nothing. Jesus describes Himself as the "true vine", to whom we must stay attached in order to exhibit the attributes of a fruitful and godly life : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Just as the branches must stay connected to the vine to bear fruit, we must remain anchored to Christ to live the way He desires us to live.
We abide in Jesus by depending on Him, staying in constant communication with Him, and obeying Him. As we commit our lives to making Him our number one priority, our roots will grow down deep and strengthen themselves with His power. When we look at our lives, we will see good fruit, evidence of our connection to Christ.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. Colossians 2:6-7a
In the same way that a plant's branches are cut back to stimulate healthy growth, we must expect our lives to be pruned to look more like Jesus.
Pruning is the process by which branches are removed from a plant or tree so as to improve the structure and direct new healthy growth. Pruning is an essential, and sometimes painful, part of a believer's life. God will prune His children so that they will bear fruit. He knows exactly what we need in order to become who He created us to be.
In the same way that a gardener will cut diseased or broken branches off of a tree during the pruning process, God will remove things from our lives that do not glorify Him. These can include relationships, bad habits, or sinful emotional patterns. If something in our lives is preventing us from reflecting God's image or hindering our spiritual growth, we can be sure that it will be pruned away.
We can trust that, although pruning is not a fun experience, God does it because He loves us and He knows best. We can be confident that His pruning will result in a life that honors Him and is fruitful in good works. We can cooperate with the pruning process by agreeing with God about our sin and by not continuing to try to open doors that He has shut in our lives.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:1-2
Just as a plant needs healthy soil in order to grow, we must be sure to cultivate the soil of our hearts so that God's Word will fall on fertile ground.
Good soil is a crucial element to healthy plant life. Soil provides the base for the roots to attach, and supplies nutrients to the plant. If the soil is bad (rocky, void of nutrients, or otherwise compromised) the plant will not thrive. If the soil is fertile, the plant will remain nourished and healthy.
Jesus tells a parable of a farmer who went out to sow his seed. The man sowed some along the path and it was trampled underfoot and devoured by birds. Some fell on the rock and began to grow, but then withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked the life out of the plants. And the last seed was sown into good soil. This seed grew and thrived, yielding much fruit.
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear; but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:11-15 ESV
We should constantly “check our soil” to be sure God's Word will be planted in fertile ground. In this way, we become actual doers of the Word, not just hearers of the Word. When we cultivate good soil we will be primed and ready to align ourselves with God’s standards. We will be willing to obey Him no matter the cost. Believers with good soil will set aside their own opinions, perspectives, and pre-conceived notions and allow God’s Word to transform their minds.
We must make sure that, as we read the Bible and seek God’s wisdom, His words will fall on a softened heart that desires to be obedient to Him. It is not enough to simply read about God’s will, we must be ready to do God’s will. We must have the soil of our heart primed and ready to obey.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
These are but a few of the lessons we can glean from Scripture on how to apply gardening principles to our spiritual lives. I encourage you to research more on your own. Mediate on them and ask God to show you how you can apply them to your own life.
And always remember; just as plants need water and sunshine to thrive, your soul will only flourish if it is constantly watered with the Word of God, and always kept in close proximity to the bright light of His Son, Jesus.