Last month I did some speaking and support raising out in Oregon, and had the opportunity to see my family for a week while doing so. For a few nights, I stayed with my parents and on one beautiful afternoon, my mom and I explored her green thumb handiwork around the yard. My special gardening skill is that the moment I plant something, it begins to die. My mom’s special gardening skill is that she could plant a rock and boulder would grow up through the yard. And it would be pretty, too. It’s quite impressive.
As we walked around the outside of the house, she showed me her impressive creeping gourds that were climbing all over the front fence. We found a few strawberries, too, (which in October in the Oregon is quite impressive by itself!) and handful of other blooming flowers. We walked around back and saw something else (pumpkins?) growing out of the earth, but then we made a little stop by the front fence at a plant that really caught my attention.
Ok, truth-be-told, it didn’t catch my attention, it’s what my mom said about this plant that caught my attention. After all, the plant was beautiful but it was just a rose bush. You’ve seen them before, or maybe you’ve received the product of a rose bush as a gift from your spouse or boyfriend, or maybe you’ve smelled them walking through the park. Regardless, if you had seen this bush on that day, you might have admired it’s beauty but then moved on to other plants growing throughout my mom’s yard.
What stopped me was the story behind this bush: It’s a transplant from a rose bush that used to live in Oakland California. When my grandfather passed away in 2001, he had a number of plants and trees growing on his little parcel of inner city concrete. One of them was this rosebush, and one of my uncles carefully dug up the plant, cut off shoots for each of the siblings, and that’s how my mom and dad (it was my dad’s father that had passed) ended up with this particular plant.
I don’t know how long that plant had grown in Oakland, but it’s been living the last 16 years in a little side yard in Oregon, continuing it’s tradition of producing beautiful flowers each and every year. To my knowledge, none of the other siblings had much success with their shoots, but to their credit, they didn’t have my mom’s green thumb super power, either.
My mom and I talked a bit about the plant, and later I actually wrote a few things down and started thinking about this blog post. I now realize that one of my life goals is to be like this plant. That’s right, I’m trying to live like a transplanted flower. Here are three lessons I’m taking away from this bush’s story:
Be tough. This bush didn’t get to pick whether or not it got to stay in my grandpa’s yard. It didn’t get any input into whether or not it would get chopped up into five different plants and then sent nearly 700 miles away to be replanted. To my knowledge, my uncle didn’t consult with the plant about what was best for it, instead, he gently hacked it and gave my aunt’s and uncles and parents a chance to keep a part of my grandpa’s home with them.
In the same way, each of us experiences hardships in life of which we have so little control. (Don’t get me wrong, all of us cause plenty of grief in our own lives, but legitimately, things happen that lie far outside our control!) Maybe you were driving home, obeying the laws, even keeping space between you and vehicle in front of you when an out-of-control driver coming the other direction caused a serious accident. You didn’t deserve that. You didn’t cause it. And yet you have to live with the consequences of someone else’s actions. Have you contracted someone else’s cold because they showed up to work when they should have called in sick? You ever been cheated by an employee? You ever have something stolen out of your car or back pocket? You ever falsely accused of something?
We all face difficult circumstances in life, and often things that are outside of our desire or control, but each of those experiences gives us the opportunity to learn to develop toughness. You cannot control everything that happens to you in a day, but you can control how you respond. My friend Doug calls it grit: that ability to respond right even when it feels like everything/everyone is against you.
I believe toughness comes from the belief that this life isn’t all that we have, and that through Jesus we have hope that gets us through today and prepares us for tomorrow. The writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). This hope gives us toughness to endure today’s storms while waiting for tomorrow’s sunshine.
Be fruitful. I love that my mom’s plant continues to produce flowers, season after season, year after year. In the same way, God wants you and I to be fruitful in every aspect of our lives. In fact, in John 15 when Jesus talks about this very issue of fruitfulness, He says the Father cuts and prunes us for one reason: to make us more fruitful! The difficult seasons of life, the good seasons of life, the painful seasons of life, the joyful seasons of life all have one ultimate goal: to make our lives more fruitful for God’s glory!
And how do we maintain our fruitfulness? According to verses 5, 9 and 10, we are fruitful when we remain in God’s love and we remain in God’s love when we live in obedience to God. So our obedience is at the heart of our love and fruitfulness. In other words, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how difficult the circumstances, keep true to God and you will continue to be fruitful.
Be beautiful. Not only is this plant fruitful, but it is beautiful. Obviously, I’m not much of a plant guy (understatement!) but I did a double take at this rose bush’s beautiful flowers and admired them enough to snap a pic. Despite that massive life-altering experience this perennial Rosaceae endured, it continues to be a bright spot for people who pass by, for the gardener who grooms it and for the God who created it!
Be beautiful to the world around you, and show them the love of Christ from the way you live. In Matthew 5 Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Whether that “other” is a godly spouse or a distant stepchild, an unbearable boss or a pleasant co-worker, a lousy neighbor or an elderly shut-in, be beautiful to the people around you so that they see your Jesus.
What do you need to work on this week? Does your toughness need to grow? Do you need to renew your commitment to fruitful obedience? Has your beauty been tainted by your difficult circumstances?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life— and your toughness, fruit and beauty—is better on the water!