“I’ve decided to plant succulents in my indoor planter!” I announced to my daughter.
She answered, “Oh, Mom, you’re so much better than that!”
Better than what? Succulents?
She has a much better estimation of my gardening skills than I do. She imagines I can totally handle ferns, lilies and violets. It’s quite a compliment, really, coming from a plant-lover like her. However, while my skills are modest, I do know what can grow well in the place I will be planting.
My indoor planter gets so much sun and heat, it is a challenge to find plants that will work there. Knowing this, I mixed a few new plants with some of the succulents I already had. I cut them, stuck them into new dirt, watered a bit every day, and trusted they would take root and become something beautiful.
As I thought on this potting philosophy, I figured this idea of planting in the places I have been given could be applied in other areas in my life. In particular, in serving and loving those around me, like my family, friends, neighbors, and community.
What do you think of when I say “serving others"? Does it conjure images of cleaning bathrooms and cooking meals, perhaps in a Downton Abby maid’s uniform? As a teenager, when I thought of serving God and others, I thought I would have to be penniless, far from home, living in a jungle somewhere like a missionary.
Now I see service as using what I have been given by God to make a difference where I am.
Maybe you have money to spare, a talent or craft you have honed, patience in difficult times, a gift for teaching, or wisdom and experience. These are all gifts that God can apply in large and small measure if we are willing to let Him.
Here’s a few ways people I know use what they have to help others:
Sarah organizes. She collects children’s shoes to give out at her son’s school.
Joyce loves to cook. She brings dinner to families healing from surgery or illness.
Dan has strong arms and a tall ladder. He cleans out roof gutters for his elderly neighbors.
Ruth sews. She makes aprons to raise money for a local women’s charity.
Sylvia is bilingual. She translates for teens that bring clean socks to homeless migrants.
Trevor prays. He’s at the hospital, praying with a family as their dad takes his last breath.
As for me, I work with middle schoolers. That is my gift, but I like to call it my super power! Their strange and wacky ways are a delight to my heart! My God-given compassion lets me see past all that, loving them with playful banter, a listening ear, and eyes that see who they really are.
But the “planting” I do most often is believing they can when they’ve decided they can’t, whatever the “can’t” is for them. It’s not always easy to plant this hope when a kid has been burned by a harsh environment or starved of positive attention. Generous watering and special care is needed for new roots to grow.
I will admit, I am sometimes afraid going in; afraid of rejection, that their hurt will lash out at me or that I will make a mess of things. It’s not always easy to offer up our gifts, is it?
What changes this fear is having faith. God knows what He’s doing. It’s no accident God put me in this particular situation. I like to call Him the Great Orchestrator, bringing my gifts and someone’s needs together at just the right time, in just the right way.
Just like my succulents, planting can bring beauty; but it takes trust, some effort, a bit of courage to step in…and LOVE.
Don’t forget the LOVE! Very important.
“I may understand all the secret things of God and have all knowledge, and I may have faith so great I can move mountains. But even with all these things, if I do not have love, then I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned.
But I gain nothing if I do not have love.”
1 Cor. 13: 2-3 (NCV)
Okey-dokey folks, it’s time to get on your overalls and grab your beat-up gardening hat. But before you slip on your garden Crocs, ask yourself a few questions:
What talent, gift or resource do I have that could help?
What place or situation am I being asked to plant in?
Is it God that’s asking me, or am I bringing along my own agenda?
If it’s God asking, do I trust that He knows what He’s doing?
How do I bring God’s love with me as I serve?
In little ways or big, we are each given the chance to take what we have and make a beautiful thing grow. My hope is that you will take God’s hand and trust Him. He makes a great planting buddy and never disappoints.
And if you need some gardening gloves, I have spares!
It’s time to start planting!