“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15: 1-4
When I think of gardens, I tend to think of beautiful places with abundant flowers and amazing colors. It’s an oasis of sorts a place where you can go and smell the sweet scent of beauty. True art from the master gardener right in front of us accessible to us. Gardens to me or place where we simply cannot doubt the hand of God. But the thing about Gardens is they don’t happen by accident.
Gardens are intentional from the picking of the seed to the season where it must be planted everything about a garden is mapped out and planned from the soil to the seed to the flower. I’m not much of a gardener but recently in the last month, or so Holy Spirit has been inspiring me to plant some flowers. I don’t have a lot of flowers perhaps six or seven in the border of our front yard for aesthetic appeal. Honestly, any plant or flower I have ever owned has died. My ignorance on how to care for them and forgetting to water them really didn’t help matters much. However, God was asking me to do this, and I wanted to do it right. I actually had to YouTube a video on how to plant a flower! That’s how out of my comfort zone I was. The initial planting was a little tough. I had to dig out the rocks, and on our property, we have rocky soil. I had to dig them out one by one and create a place to be able to plant the flowers. I did not start from seed I admit; I picked up some young flowers that were beginning to sprout. I bought the correct soil and plant food, as well as a watering, can. My flowers began to blossom, and I felt so proud that I had finally remembered to water them daily. Then they started dying, and I realized that watering them wasn’t enough. I felt like a failure as I watched them wither away and I was helpless to stop it. I asked God, “Why would you have me plant these flowers if they were just going to die on my watch?” He said,” It’s true that you’ve watered them, and now they have grown but they have overgrown, and you have not pruned them.”
Pruning? It looked like I was going to need to watch another YouTube video. I was always uncomfortable with the idea of pruning flowers. It felt like pruning was painful for them and I didn’t know what I was doing and insecure about what to cut. I guess I thought if I avoided it completely the things that were dead would just fall off. While in some cases that was true too much of what was dead stayed on the flower stunting its growth. Back to the store, I went purchasing pruning tools. I began to snip the back and cut the things that were not producing. I felt very insecure in the process. In fact, there was even a time when it looked like I did more harm than good because nothing was growing, and all I saw was a bunch of green! Still, I watered the flowers talking to them and speaking life to them. The next day I saw so much growth I was amazed. New blooms were sprouting up everywhere and what looked like a once dead flower looked brand-new! I was so excited! Then I noticed the flower starting to struggle again and I went back to God and asked Him why after watering and pruning the flowers were dying again? He said, “You have not taken into consideration the weeds growing around the flowers choking out its roots.” So I began to weed the garden making sure that the flowers were protected and safe from the choking. I even noted how some weeds almost looked identical to the flowering plants. They tried to blend in so I would not notice. Again God pointed them out to me.
The three things that I found were most important in maintaining my little garden were: Pour, prune and protect. The flowers needed water and food, they needed to be pruned so they could grow to maximum potential and they needed protection from the weeds that sought to choke out their tender roots.I shouldn’t have been surprised that God had me grow a garden right when we are in our season of releasing and grief. The last thing I wanted to do was grow a little flower garden. All I wanted to do was keep the five babies I grew and grow them more. I found it to be a poor replacement until I realized that it was not meant to replace anything at all. It was meant to teach me the importance of how to protect what He has grown in me. So many things can take away from our garden, but here are the one’s I feel led to share.
1.Busyness- When we fail to drink at the well and feast at His table we are starving our Spirit, and that includes all of our growth He has cultivated within us as well. Yes, Jesus will water us, but we must be in His presence for that to occur. In our fast-paced lifestyle we cannot be watered if we are constantly moving. Just as the flowers soak up the nutrients from the soil, water, and food we too must be rooted in place to receive the spiritual food God has for us. Don’t forget to water yourself by being intentional to take time to Worship, Read the Word, and Pray.
2.An Unteachable Spirit- We tend to think the fuller we are in knowledge the more spiritual we are. Just as a flower can be full of leaves and buds but not thrive, we too can be full of things that hold no benefit to us spiritually. If we do not allow God to cut the things that are a hindrance to us we will just keep growing wild. One of my flowers, in particular, did not have many dead leaves or buds but in fact was growing so much it was crowding out the other flowers causing them to perish. When I looked at its growth closer, I saw that letting it grow wild actually was crowding out some fresh buds that wanted to grow underneath the mess. From the outside, it looked like it was healthy, but a closer look showed it was growing wild and needed to be pruned. After pruning it, even more, buds arrived but grew with a purpose in the way I had pruned it. It did not crowd out the other flowers but rather added to the beauty of what was there. A person with an unteachable spirit feels that everything they say and do is fruitful when in reality it harms themselves and those around them. Letting God prune the things that don’t bear much fruit allows a branch to grow that bears abundant fruit. Having a teachable spirit means we can ask God to search our hearts and reveal anything He wants to extract. It also means allowing ourselves to be convicted.
3. Roots of Bitterness/Unforgiveness- Those weeds though… Can I get an Amen? Seriously, I despise weeds. I will weed that little flower garden and create a border around it, and as soon as I turn around they are back with a vengeance! Why do weeds grow so fast? It’s because weeds actually thrive and adapt in a disturbed habitat, such as a fallen tree from a storm. Guess what? Gardening is considered a disturbed habitat. This means that the tilling of the soil, planting of the seed or young flower actually creates an environment for weeds to come. It signals the weeds like a flare gun, “Hey I’m here.” Even when weeds are pulled because their seeds do not germinate all at once, they keep returning. This is the same spiritually as well. We have spiritual weeds that ruin our Godly Garden. In fairness, the disturbance we create in the supernatural soil of our hearts when we accept Christ and let Him be our Master Gardener also sends out a flare gun response to the Enemy. So the Enemy begins to activate the seeds he planted in our hearts long ago, and because the memories and the bitterness and unforgiveness doesn’t happen all at once, it seems that as you work through one layer of bitterness or unforgiveness, another layer appears. It can be an exhausting process especially when you see the weeds come back.
Romans 12:2 tells us, “ Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Renewal is not a one-time process but a continuous one, just as weeding is not a one and done process either but one that must be done on a regular basis. The truth is if you have a garden you will have weeds. When we ignore that fact or somehow think that our Gardens will be weed proof we disillusion ourselves. We must look at the weeds, identify them for what they are and then pull them out. We will be offended at times, we will get hurt, and we will have to forgive. There are layers to all of this as some wounds are so deep it cannot be pulled by hand, but it takes an inner healing to do it. Either way, we are responsible for the condition of our garden and part of the work is the process of continuous renewal of our minds. Ephesians 4:23 tells us, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes”.
Growing a garden is not an easy task, and it requires continuous work just like our spiritual walk. It requires drinking at the well of His Spirit, so we are not thirsty and allowing ourselves the painful process of being pruned by the Master Gardener. It also challenges us to protect the work God has done in us by guarding our hearts and not letting the enemy’s weeds take root in our soil. How is your garden looking these days? What do you feel Holy Spirit leading you to do in caring for your garden?
Prayer Starter: Lord, I am not a very good gardener I admit, but You are. I submit myself to Your pruning while also committing myself to drink from Your well soaking in Your presence. Help me to renew my mind and guard my heart against the weeds that the Enemy is trying to use to choke out what You have planted. I trust You, Lord. Search my heart and reveal what needs to be uprooted. In Jesus Name, Amen.