I’m not great about watering my outdoor plants in summer. I start off strong, but come July and August, the petunias in my hanging pots begin to thin out. The leaves yellow and wither, and my belated attempts to catch back up result in water sloshing through dry, dead roots to the ground.
So, people who faithfully care for plants put me in awe. I aspire to it. And maybe that’s what God wanted for us when he created a garden and put the first humans, Adam and Eve, in it. Maybe he wanted to share with us the wonder of caring for something and watching it flourish.
Of course, Adam and Eve failed to be faithful-not to the garden, but to the Master Gardener. They ate fruit God had said not to eat, and their choice to disobey their Creator resulted in a rift between God and man that still haunts us today.
I wouldn’t have done any better in their place.
On the humorous side of it, I have actually eaten fruit from a tree I wasn’t supposed to eat, though to be fair, Mom never said “You shall not eat of the fruit of the ornamental plum tree.”
On the serious side, as my care for my own plants demonstrates, I have a tendency to fade out my care for things to which God has called me to be faithful. Plants, yes, but people, too. And prayer. And the list goes on.
You have a list of things God has called you to be faithful to, as well. Himself, chief among them. Not that our faithfulness to him equates to taking care of him–not at all–but he calls us to spend time with him, to trust him, to obey him, to seek after him faithfully.
But what about when we’re feeling a bit like a neglected plant ourselves? Life cracks in our hands, dirt-dry and brittle. Worry and unfulfilled hopes choke us like weeds. Our spirits pant for living water.
I imagine Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s followers, felt this way after Jesus’s crucifixion. All the hope Jesus’s earthly ministry had instilled in her seemed lost. She went to the tomb looking for his lifeless body.
When it wasn’t there, she believed Jesus’s body had been stolen. So, she stood at the tomb grieving.
Have you ever been there? All hope lost, and your Savior apparently missing?
Of course, Jesus was not missing. He had come back to life, and he approached Mary in her grief. Did she recognize him? Eventually, and with great joy.
But first, she mistook him for a gardener, of all things.
A gardener. And maybe she wasn’t that far off.
Isaiah 27 describes God’s people as a vineyard. Verse 3 begins, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it.”(ESV)
I think of my petunias. If I watered them every moment, they’d drown. The water would run off the leaves, saturate the dirt, and wash through the holes in the bottom of the pot, probably carrying needed soil and nutrients with it.
But we’re so much needier than plants, aren’t we? And our God, the source of living water–water much better and purer than anything that comes from a hose or even a good, soaking rain–is constantly tending to us. Every. Moment.
In the midst of our trials, when all seems lost and we don’t see God’s hand moving, he is still right there. Still caring for us. We struggle with unfaithfulness in gardening and in faith and in life, but Jesus does not.
We are never neglected, though sometimes our feelings would have us believe otherwise. In those circumstances, we’d be wise to follow Mary Magdalene’s beautiful example.
When her life seemed dry and dying, she could’ve hidden herself away, believing God had stopped caring for her. We do that sometimes, don’t we? And in doing so, we’re basically hiding out under umbrellas that shield us from the water our Gardener pours on us every moment.
But Mary stepped out from under the doubt and fear and went looking for Jesus.
Let’s do the same.
When the going gets tough, when we can’t see how the end works out, let’s faithfully seek our Savior. Let’s drop the umbrellas and soak up the water our Gardener pours on us every moment.
Lord, thank you for your loving care. Forgive me for the times when I’ve failed to trust in you. Teach me to always look to you. Remind me again and again that you are always there, always working in my life, even when I don’t understand and can’t explain it. I love you, Lord, and thank you for your faithfulness.