While baby-sitting for our little grandson, Grandpa and I noticed the lovely flower resting on a table in the living room. After putting Danny to bed for a nap and bidding Grandpa farewell as he headed out to run errands, I decided to enjoy a bit of respite. Though I normally retreat to the family room with a book in hand, I felt the need to spend time in the presence of that beautiful plant. Some years ago, it was an equally compelling blossom which taught me an unforgettable lesson about God’s persistent care and God’s faith in our potential to accomplish the spectacular…
It was a few weeks before Christmas when I made my annual purchase of a Christmas Amaryllis potting kit. Each year, after my husband planted and watered the bulb, I kept watch until the bulb produced an amazing blossom. These blooms always appeared just in time to add a flourish to our Yuletide decor. One year, after I made this purchase, I left the boxed bulb and pot in the garage because we were in the midst of decorating for Christmas. I planned to retrieve the kit when we were ready to plant. Unfortunately, in our decorating frenzy, several items in the garage were rearranged and the kit was inadvertently buried. I rediscovered it two months later while looking for something else. Because Mike knows far more about plants and their care than I do, I brought the kit into the house and asked if we should bother planting it. Mike reminded me of the year we were given an Easter Amaryllis and went on to say, “Maybe it was just a Christmas Amaryllis that someone re-gifted. Let’s see what happens.”
Because Mike was too busy to deal with the plant for a few days, I decided to help in this effort. I remember convincing myself that I could take on this minimal gardening task as I opened the box. When I found the pot, a very large bulb and a little mud-like disk about the size of a hockey puck, I was disappointed. Whoever had put this kit together had forgotten the potting soil. The list of enclosed items included potting medium and I had none. Determined, I headed to the garage to look for potting soil. After a fruitless search, I was tempted to abandon this project. However, I was on a mission. I looked at the box to see if the type of soil was noted so I could purchase it. As I reread, I discovered that the disk I mistakenly called fertilizer was actually freeze-dried soil which would expand to fill the pot. I hit my forehead and murmured “Duh!” as I returned to planting. I placed the “soil” in the pot and added water. I set the bulb in the expanding soil and held it in place as I added more water. The soil covered it by half as it made its way to the rim. I placed the pot by the kitchen window and cleaned up my mess. That night, after I checked the bulb to be certain it hadn’t fallen over, I went to bed with a contented smile.
Though Mike is the resident gardener, I dutifully checked that Amaryllis bulb every morning and after work each day. I also informed him that I would keep the soil moist to the touch. Within a few days, a bit of green stem rewarded my effort. Every day afterward, I encouraged that stem to grow upright. One day, I noticed the bud at the top of the stem. I’ll never forget catching my first glimpse of the red and white blossom which give this particular Amaryllis its name. While sitting with that inspiring flower in my grandson’s living room, it occurred to me that my planting adventure had actually brought one of Jesus’ most beloved parables to life.
My persistent care of that once-troublesome bulb mirrors God’s care for us in spite of the troubles we cause one another and ourselves. When God asks us to acknowledge our missteps and our sins, God also promises to nurture us through our attempts to set things right again and to grow from our mistakes. In today’s gospel (Luke 13:1-9), Jesus illustrates God’s persistent care for and faith in us with the parable of the unproductive fig tree. After chastising the people for once again missing the point of his words, Jesus offered his story. He told the crowd that an orchard owner grew impatient with a fig tree which had not yielded fruit for three years. The man ordered his gardener to cut down the tree so it wouldn’t drain the soil of nutrients. The gardener pleaded with his employer to allow him just one more year to cultivate the tree. If after a year of careful attention the tree failed to bear fruit, the gardener promised to cut it down. The orchard owner placed his faith in that gardener and spared the tree.
Just the same, God leaves us in Jesus’ hands to be pruned and nourished. Much to our good fortune, Jesus spent what remained of his life among us transforming us through his love and his example. With complete faith in our ability to respond, God patiently waits for the spectacular blossoms which will come to life in you and in me.
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