Unlike Forest Gump, I don’t believe life is like a box of chocolates. I believe it’s more like a garden. Maybe that’s because there are fewer calories in plants or simply because I spend a whole lot more time in my garden than I do sitting down to a lovely box of chocolates!
At any rate, I love the parallels I see around me between my garden and life when I’m up to my elbows in dirt and grass clippings.
As I sit in my office, looking out the window at my garden, I’m always struck by the ever changing colors and textures I see. Life is like that too, don’t you think? Things change, the colors come and go and the textures sometimes go from soft and inviting to harsh and downright painful. (Thank you very much, rose bush!) Stop and take a look around you and see if you don’t see the same thing. Sometimes we live in a pristine meadow, with a glorious collection of colors and song birds. Other times we are stuck in the middle of nothing but crabgrass!
Some gardens are controlled and orderly, planted with neat rows of green and color. There are gardens that stick to a particular color scheme or a repeated pattern. That can be calming to some, but after awhile, I would be crazy bored if that were my garden.
Some gardens are wild, like a symphony warming up their instruments, everyone playing a different note at the same time. They seem chaotic, haphazard, and honestly kind of a mess. I would be a nervous wreck if my garden looked like that day after day, season after season.
That’s why balance and change are so necessary. You get just the right balance of shapes and textures and there is a peacefulness that fills you as you absorb the beauty. But inevitably, once you get the balance just right, something changes. The birds devour the berries or the rabbits nibble away all the flower petals and the plant that once fit so perfectly now appears dried up and straggly. So a gardener has to pivot and make changes to restore the balance. Berry season ends, so a different plant will need to go in its place. The temperatures have made growing another round of soft petaled flowers challenging so a different, sturdier flower will be needed to take over. Sometimes a hard pruning is necessary to revive a plant and get it back on track to grow and flourish.
Like a garden, life is constantly changing with the seasons. In winter, all the beauty of what’s to come is hidden deep within the soil. The seeds are busy germinating; the roots and bulbs of perennials are resting and gathering energy in preparation of what is coming. It may look like everything’s dead and nothing is going on, but just a few scratches under the surface of the hard ground can reveal baby earthworms and tiny seeds just waiting for the right moment to make their appearance.
In spring, everything is fresh and new and full of promise. Grass has such a brilliant shade of green, it almost hurts your eyes! Tender shoots of flowers and young plants start to stake their claim in the soil that has nourished them during the quiet of winter. They spread their roots and unfurl all the color and glory that God created them to provide.
Summer brings the heat that can either kill a tender plant or show the strength of one with deep roots and solid nourishment. Its during the heat of summer, when the air gets still and heavy, that a plant will show its true nature. A shallow and weak root system or isolation from the refreshing afternoon shade required to keep it going will separate the weakest plants from the sturdiest. A plant that has been well taken care of and is planted in the right place for its needs, can survive the scorch of summer’s sun. Its roots have been trained to go deep for the life giving water it needs. Because its strong, it isn’t as susceptible to pests and disease and the elements that want to destroy it.
Fall is one of my favorite seasons because that’s when the change in the garden is so noticeable. The leaves that were once bright green have shifted to amazing colors that match a sunset. The young flowers have moved aside and the more mature, solid shrubs have taken their place as the centerpiece. They are the constant that give the garden shape, even once everything else has died away.
And then winter comes again. Life in the garden slows way down. Some plants have finished their purpose and are ready to retreat back into the soil. It may seem like they are gone, but those old plants have left a legacy for the garden that gave them so much life through every season. They break down in the soil, providing the nutrients for the next group of seedings as they wait their turn to surface in spring and bring their own beauty to the garden of life.
What season are you in? Have you made sure to do the work that will sustain you during those hard summer and winter months? I’m taking a lesson from my toughest and strongest plants; enjoy the moment now when I’m meant to sparkle and shine in this dark and dreary world. I’m pausing often to soak up God’s word that will sustain me during the tough times that I know are coming, because that’s all part of the cycle of life and my garden!
As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24