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Lessons from the Farmer: Part 2

I’m not exaggerating when I say my scripture-checking session with Abby I wrote about in part one changed something in me. It opened my eyes to a tangible world (gardening) that had parallel applications for my intangible efforts (parenting). The next weekend, I called a taxi and went to the Chinese version of Home Depot’s nursery section, the Bird and Flower Market. I was determined to watch these truths play out in dirt and water.

Our corner of the world is a tropical marriage of sun and rain; the gorgeous bougainvillea tree thrives here. It brightens up nearly every street, adorns even the most rundown buildings with its vibrant color, and begs to be noticed in corners big and small. I just had to bring its energy to my newly christened “rooftop garden.” I picked out a healthy looking tree and brought it home. I had chosen the perfect spot for it to sun in, a basket to repot it in, and I was armed with compost from a friend. I was overflowing with my own enthusiasm. All the gardening websites said bougainvillea trees were almost impossible to kill. That was sweet music to my ears.

So perhaps you can imagine my surprise and distress when just a few days later all its deep purple blooms littered the ground. Its green leaves had shriveled and by the end of the week, anyone with half a brain would have assumed the tree was dead.

Troubleshooting the demise of my bougainvillea brought me a few conclusions:

  1. The bougainvillea can survive almost anything such as intense heat, prolonged periods of drought, and neglect but don’t mess with its roots. When transplanting, extra care must be given to nurture and nourish the roots.
  2. After transplanting (and being extra careful about those roots!) be sure to give extra care to watering even more frequently than usual while it’s adjusting to its new home.

These lessons may seem pretty obvious, but then again, I am a novice gardener! This was all news to me! But even as I was absorbing everything I could about transplant shock in plants and how to revive them, I couldn’t help but think back to the many times I had seen this play out in the lives of others.

We have walked alongside many families who have chosen to resettle themselves overseas and let me tell you, transplant shock is real. These families have given up lives of comfort, places of strong identity, success in the workplace, a stable cultural environment all to become like a child in a country not their own. We have watched a lot of them wither as their beautiful blooms fall victim to this massive change.

According to these gardening websites, a huge factor in the long-term health of plants during a transplant is paying attention to the health of the roots and giving extra nourishment to the plant during the process.

Do we give our eternal souls the same level of care that a tree of the field requires? When we’re on the cusp of a big life change such as a new baby, a big move, a job change, a child going off to college, or maybe the simple switch from summer back to school, do we pay extra attention to our roots? Are we making sure that our time being revived in God’s word each day doesn’t get neglected? Often our seasons of transition and busyness cause us to cut out the very thing that can sustain us through the changes we’re in the middle of. To take it one step further, keeping your soul tree healthy requires you to do a little more than what would normally sustain you.

Like every analogy, this one eventually breaks down. We aren’t trees, after all. And a dry season during a time of transition can’t always be avoided. It’s interesting to note, however, that God is very comfortable using the analogies of the physical world to alert us to spiritual truths we might otherwise miss.

Take the Psalmist, for example, in Psalm 1:

Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither. (vv. 2-3)

The connection between the time spent in God’s word and the effect of overall health to the tree is impossible to miss. May we be wise and learn these lessons when we’re just talking about trees, so that we may readily apply them to our hearts in due time!

In case you’re curious to know how my bougainvillea fared, it is healthy, thriving, and bringing all the color I hoped for to our rooftop. During those weeks of transition, we did take extra care to water it and look after it. We learned how to determine if there was any life left in the tree, even though we assumed it was long gone. And just like the farmer might have expected, those days of care and patience paid off.

I was out of town when Josh texted me the first blooms had made their appearance. We were in the middle of a particularly challenging season and when I saw the picture, I actually began to cry. There were signs of life coming from this tree that had seemed to hold nothing but disappointment. I was noticing all sorts of parallels to my garden and our life, but the Lord still had one more lesson to teach me through my forays into gardening, and it would prove to be the most challenging one of all.

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