I’m pretty certain it was Pa who sparked my interest in gardening. On every visit to the home he shared with Grandma, I’d venture into their backyard, eyes wide on my little face and heart thumping in anticipation of what I might discover. Delicate ferns and fuchsias grew in the shade of trees so lush that I forgot I was in suburbia. In the centre of the yard stood an enormous grapefruit tree with a koala and kookaburra (fashioned from mesh and concrete) perched in its arching branches. I’d ride brightly-painted tricycles up and down the path, watch budgies swoop and chatter happily in their aviary and help pick strawberries to eat with Grandma’s cheesecakes. From Pa I learned to relish life in the garden.
My youthful wonder led naturally to a grown-up dream of creating my own outdoor haven. Through the years I’ve gathered trees, fragrant roses, climbers, shrubs and herbs then pressed each one into rich, damp soil, dreaming of the beauty yet to unfold. Faithfully I’ve watered, weeded and watched for signs of growth. Oh, how I’ve watched! Many, many times my husband or children have been pulled outside to endure listening to me ooh and ah over each little progression in my plants, each tiny step towards my dream. Beautiful gardens take time to grow, I know, and rather than try to hurry the process, I’ve chosen to enjoy it.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that God chose to use a garden analogy to teach me an important life lesson – one that has lingered with me ever since.
It was one of those mornings where I was taking extra time just to be still with Him, to get past the everyday cycle of pray-read-journal. I sat on my bed, quietly waiting, a sense of weariness weighing heavy on me. There were challenges our family was facing, answers we needed – about purpose, employment and friendships – and the seeming lack of breakthrough was testing my endurance.
In the silence that morning, the word ‘watch’ came to mind. I was reminded of God’s promise to watch over His people. Concordance in hand, I flicked to Psalm 121. When I read verse 3 the words leapt straight from the page to my heart.
“He will not let your foot slip –
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep . . .” (Psalm 121:3-4)
With fresh hope I copied the words into my journal. God was not sleeping on the job! He knew our needs.
I moved on to Psalm 145 and read,
“The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
To all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfils the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him. . .” (Psalm 145: 18-20a, emphasis mine)
I sensed my Father speaking to my heart, bringing gracious encouragement and startling clarity.
Daughter, My watching is not from afar – it is close.
Close enough not only to know your struggles and your desires but close enough to intervene. I am well able to fulfil your desires and work out My purposes.
But often it is all about timing.
The fruit of My work in your life, just like the abundance of a harvest, is all dependent on things happening at the right time.
What good is an abundance of rain when it’s time to reap?
Or long, hot days when the plants are tiny, fragile shoots?
I know just what is needed – when – for your life to be fruitful, as I have promised.
Peace settled over my heart and mind. God has abundant provision prepared for us. It just isn’t the right time for it to be poured out – yet. He is watching over us the way I watch over my plants, delighting in every sign of growth, and He knows exactly what is needed – when – for us to flourish.
A few days after this revelation I realised my new herb seedlings had been scorched by the searing summer sun. They died before they had a chance to mature. All that remained in their pots were shriveled brown stalks.
I was disappointed my plants died. They had too much sun, too soon.
But I nodded as I was reminded of God’s promise.
The next week, billowing rain clouds darkened the sun and sent drenching arrows shooting diagonally to earth. A newly potted hydrangea, one of a pair, copped the full force of the downpour. Its pot became so water-logged that its roots began to rot. Within days the leaves shrivelled and dropped. The other plant, which was sheltered from the rain, continues to thrive.
Once again, I saw the object lesson. It’s just like you said, God.
Plants need sun. They need rain. But the time at which they are provided can make the difference between life and death.
Many things are vital for us to live the full lives God has promised. But they’re only able to help us if they’re supplied at the right time. So often we try to hurry the process, thinking we need them now.
But we are not the Master gardener.
Only He sees the whole process clearly. And when the time is right, He’ll open His hand and pour out all He has promised. When that happens – in His timing – we’ll be ready to soak up every drop He provides . . . and flourish.