Does anyone else get excited by finding something unexpected? Something of value found for the first time'? I found 2 rosebushes hidden under a blanket of neglect, but finding them cost me something. That got me thinking: Do our hearts beat harder at what will be a stunning rosebush, or do we get angry at the scrapes from the thorns we weren't expecting?
Let me explain: If you have been following my earlier posts, you know that we just purchased a an 1899 antebellum plantation house that has been vacant and/or neglected for years. Purchasing the home of Laura Pope Forester, a south GA folk artist from the early 20th century, has made me cognizant of our impact on the people and spaces in our lives. Her artwork, which included her home and gardens as well as her statuary, was featured in magazines, postcards and other vehicles of the press for decades. While originally 1,600 acres, it is now 6 acres of pecans, magnolias, dogwoods, and cedar trees...and invasive weeds and bushes.
Having purchased these 6 acres of amazing potential (code word for an overgrown and out of control yard) , my family spent the weekend with chain saws, clippers, gloves, water bottles and more. After 30+ man hours, our cracked knuckles and farmer's tanned arms revealed we were there, but the acreage did not tell the same story. Ho hum...how do you eat an elephant? I know...one bite at a time...but I digress.
While clipping along, cutting weeds that identify with wrestlers on steroids, battling brambles that literally ripped through my favorite pair of Levis, and gathering enough trash to fill up Hefty bags that football teams would be able to use for arm curls, I found beautiful rosebush leaves almost smothered out from the sun and cut off from all room to grow.
Not one to be daunted by some puny, unwelcome plants (yes, I know that this is a direct conflict to what I just said, but work with me here...it's a rosebush--probably 90 years old, alright?), I dived in with pruners and trimmers. Subsequently, I came up looking like I'd gotten into a fight with a tom cat in a KFC trash bin.
Ouch! This time I moved in more slowly and thoughtfully, taking in the surroundings and learning and listening to what I saw.
The rosebush was still healthy. Why? Perhaps because it was planted with thoughtfulness and intention of the present and the future. Do I make choices with the same wisdom?
The rosebush was nearly overwhelmed with things that did not belong there--plants that had encroached on its space. Is that true of my life too?
The rosebush was overwhelmed with the pressures of its environment and needed outside help to survive. Do I recognize when I am in over my head and accept help with grace and gratitude?
The rosebush needed to be cut back--way back--in order to get rid of leggy, unproductive stems. This would create a plant that blooms prolific flowers instead of just scraggly, thorny branches with occasional bud.s What areas of life am I cutting back--even way back--in order to create a fragrant aroma for the Master Gardener?
These are some of the thoughts that were twisting and turning through my mind while I cut and pulled brambles, and trimmed and pulled thorns out of my gloves. When I walked away that late afternoon, there was no beautiful rosebush with climbing tendrils to show for my investment of skin and sweat. There was only this pile of rubbish and the rose that looked maligned and abused.
Yet, I saw what it was meant to be--what it can be; what it will be. Was I willing to pay the cost to allow it to become what it was created and planted to be? Then the final epiphany came to me:
This is exactly what God has done for each of us and why He has done it.
His heart beats in thrill as He looks at us, just like mine did when I found the hidden leaves. He took thorns and more because He knows what we are meant to be, what we can be and what we will be. By working in my life, even when there will be no immediate flowers or fruit, He demonstrates His faithfulness to us, but also His faith in us.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6