I had a black thumb for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t keep any plants alive. I didn’t have a desire to be a gardener until we moved into our current home. The previous tenant had an impressive looking garden. It was lush and vibrant. I was so enticed that I felt I couldn’t live with myself if I were to let that garden suffer. I was determined. Little did I know, that I was in for a lot of work. At first, I was so excited to have basil, mint, and oregano at my disposal. I was so excited to have fresh herbs at the ready for my recipes. I had aspirations to make my own essential oils. Also, I had gorgeous 4 O’Clock flowers that came back with no problem. I didn’t even water them much for the first year. I was so proud of myself, even though I hadn’t really turned my thumb to a different color. Then one year, I noticed that it was difficult to plant any new flowers in the garden. What I didn’t know about mint, is that it is an invasive root, and it should really be put in its own pot, rather than in a flower bed. And although the flowers were pretty and pink, they were invasive also. The mint and flowers were taking over the entire garden and choking everything out. My awesome husband did most of the heavy-duty work, and after lots of kneeling, digging, pulling, and shoveling, we completely rid the garden of mint. Thankfully, I can now tell you that my flower bed is a colorful sight. I have daisies, vincas, zinnias, chrysanthemums and two rose bushes. And they aren’t dying! Hallelujah! In the past, I never dreamed of becoming a sucessful gardener, but now, it’s nice to have an addition to my list of hobbies.
A gardenia is a very difficult flower to manage. They cannot be exposed to direct sunlight and it has to be humid enough to stay fresh. They need water, but not too much water. Once the plant blooms, they can’t be touched, or they will turn brown. I live in the New Mexico desert, so, it is obviously not an ideal environment for a gardenia. I currently have a healthy gardenia plant on my front porch. I have had two plants prior to this one and both attempts to nuture it were disasters. When I first received my newest plant, there were buds everywhere. The buds teased me with the promise of a bountiful, fragrant bouquet. For weeks and weeks, the buds didn’t budge. Leaf buds or flower buds? There was no way to tell. I nervously watered. I constantly pushed it into the shade, terrified of the desert sun’s power to shrivel the poor plant. Whenever the rain would fall, I would trust in God and believe that the rain would be just enough for my plant. I was starting to lose hope that I would see a bloom before Thanksgiving, and I was ready to shield it from cold weather for the rest of the year. But, finally, I was surprised one evening by a perfect, pearly bloom. The aroma from the flower was so worth the wait.
I honestly believe that heaven is filled with gardenia bushes as far as the eye can see. It is near impossible to illustrate the smell. Sure, a rose is a rose, and by any other name would smell as sweet, but a gardenia is a special kind of intoxication to a gardener’s nose. It is a smell that is enhanced by feelings of diligence, anticipation, nurturing, relaxation, peace. At least, I certainly felt all those emotions after my first whiff of the gardenia bloom.
There is such a sense of accomplishment when such toil rewards you with indescribable beauty. It is certainly better than feeling like a failure when an unexpected frost in April ruins your hopes of breaking the world record for tallest sunflowers. If gardening has taught me anything that I can apply to my life, it is that positive results from “quick fixes” are few and far between. Patience is key. Much like my episode with the mint, if you want to flourish, you need the responsibility to eliminate things in your life that tend to fester. Uproot your anxiety, unforgiveness, ungratefulness, depression, fear, anger, poor choices, etc. No matter how much you sugar coat and justify your sin with pretty petals, it’s going to keep coming back and will overrun your life with greater power. The consequences of your sin will spread and will effect everyone around you. Is it your intent to be a disease that creates nothing but weeds in your path or will you habitually work to take care of yourself inside and out? Will you allow God’s light to shine over your life and create a pleasing aroma to our Father and others around you?
What better symbol is there to compare our lives to, than the gardenia? It is the most luxurious of flowers as well as the most delicate. We are clothed in white from our salvation, beautifully nestled within the warm light of our Lord, but we are vulnerable to the environment around us. If we take too many laps at the well of temptation, we drown. The smallest touch of sin, and our souls become brown and tarnished. But God embraces us, cultivates us, so that the old leaves will fade and we will bloom with a new identity, filled with joy and everlasting peace.
“But rebels and sinners…you will be like a great tree with withered leaves, like a garden without water.” Isaiah 1:28-30 (NLT)
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)
“You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.” Song of Songs 4:12 (NLT)
“The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither.” Psalm 37:18 (NIV)
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)