Did you know there is a lot you can learn when you start to move plants around and try to grow these little suckers without killing them? I’ve successfully grown two children past age 1, but this was a different kind of hard. I recently started ripping out plants and moving them around in our flowerbeds and hedges… the slug problem was also out of control, so I began my crusade. I never did much (aka I did nothing) with the plants at our previous home; I left that hobby to my green-thumb mother and landscape design sister. When we moved into our current home during the Great Quarantine of 2020, I decided I might as well try.
Cultivating and Thriving
I’m going to share some things I’ve realized in the hot and humid summer sun of Oklahoma. Tending to a garden or getting plants to thrive is essentially an allegory to a walk in the Christian faith. I’m pretty sure there’s even a parable about this (Matthew 13). First of all, you’ve got to learn where the plants will actually thrive, whether this is in the shade with all the chill slugs, or the sunshine in the crushing heat. The soil will work best if it isn’t red Okie clay. Soil can be equated to your foundation or where you are planted. I would equate this to your personal relationship with Jesus, how and how frequently you receive the Sacraments, and your involvement or attitude towards your parish life. There is not one exact right way to express your faith, it is not a one-size-fits-all in ministry or charisms.
We all have a place to be fruitful and the hard part is finding that out. We are all a part of the Body of Christ. I would encourage you to reflect with God on where your gifts will best serve the Church. If you’re stumped, ask your friends and family, they sometimes see your gifts better than you. My recommendation would be to avoid the slugs in your life for advice.
Hard Work Pays Off
Once you have done the hard work and digging the holes and making a plan, you have to make sure there is lots of water.
Consistency with watering also helps. In John 4:4-26 we get to hear Jesus tell the Samaritan woman that He is the water of eternal life and the water that will always satisfy. She exclaims, “give me this water always!” Consistent watering of our souls with the word of God, prayer time, and immersing ourselves in His peace, the peace only He can give, is essential to our life as a Christian and growth. If we let ourselves dry out by not attending Mass or receiving Sacraments, attending Adoration or spending prayer time every day in God’s word, it can be hard to let the life of faith back into our lives. Although I would never say you can over-water yourself with Christ’s presence or Sacraments, you can over water your life with ministries and production.
I have been the victim of my own doing by trying to be involved in doing too many “good” things. The result was anxiety and doing all of those things without peace in mediocre style. It became about what I can do, and not about what God wants. This would be commonly deemed over-productivity. He does not require that we do every single ministry offered at Church, or pray every single devotion out there, or do every spiritual practice. Do the ones that you feel called to and can reasonably handle without becoming overwhelmed. Do the ones that are fruitful and can do while remaining at peace with yourself. It is great to push yourself to start a new daily devotion like a daily rosary or daily Mass, but start small and slowly add, as to not overwhelm yourself and quit everything.
The Weeds Keep Coming Back
Remember that there will always be weeds. Just like slugs are gross and the little gluttons eat holes in my plant leaves, weeds will come and they will try to choke you out. Weeds can be temptations to fall in virtues learned, reliance on self, toxic people that pull you back into habits you’d rather keep distance from, or general laziness of checking in with your spiritual life. Pull those weeds outs, put in the sweat and tears and get to Confession. If you need, talk to a trusted a friend and get some accountability. Get back up and try again. On this side of Heaven, there will always be weeds.
Soak Up the Son
Remember to get plenty of Son-light. See what I did there? Spend time with Jesus in Church, the Eucharist, the Word, or in your heart while you’re doing dishes or tending to life happenings. I think it’s interesting that in the Old Testament, God seems to come to women where they are doing their chores and running the household. The men go up to the mountain to meet God.
Incorporate a spiritual practice, like the rosary or the daily readings, by having it play out loud or in your headphones. There doesn’t have to be one right way to do prayer. Do what you need to do to receive His peace. Put up reminders in your home of God and what He means to you. Place things in your home that give life. Let God love you through other people. Call an uplifting friend. If your car is full of kids and you can’t stand the idea of getting everyone out to go into the Chapel, masks and all these days, park your car for a minute outside, make the sign of the cross, and tell Jesus how much you love Him, and let Him give you peace.
It’s Okay to Change
When things aren’t quite right, the novice gardener may have to move some plants around to make the landscape work. Sometimes, this may mean being dug up and planted in a new place, a new parish, school, community, job, friends or relationships. Others around you may have to be replanted.
Humility will be required. We don’t know everything. We need the help of others and God to get us through. Humility may show itself in the form of an elderly neighbor offering extra plants and free advice.
The Ever Changing Seasons
There are also seasons where fruits lay dormant until the next season and other times, we are overwhelmed with fruit. I can literally do nothing except remember to water, try to put myself in the right place, and put myself in His light. The rest is up to Him. Just like God is there in the still small voice and whisper, He is there in the simplicity, humility, patience and virtue of a hidden life, a life under dirt that is slowly making its way Heavenwards.
This life in God is a daily walk. Even if the growth is barely noticeable, you can tell by their fruits when they are thriving. God can bring to life what He wishes. We must pray for our friends and family whose faith lives appear to be withering or dying. Remember that he can raise the dead.
Let Us Pray
Lord, help us to be receptive to You. To your love, your soil, water and sun and do with us as you please.
(If you are a physical or tactile learner, and stuck in a faith rut, get outside and dig in the dirt. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your Maker. )