I recently rekindled a love affair with gardening shortly after my family was relocated to southeastern Alabama. The area is rural, and the house we live in has wonderful space for growing all kinds of plants. My first attempts were to grow vegetables in response to a challenge from the presiding bishop of our episcopal district. Her goal in the project was to help communities become more self-aware and healthy.
Well, true to my “all-in” nature, I went whole hog and fell in love with the earth. Now beans, tomatoes, and peppers are not that difficult to grow. So my successes were huge. But I always wanted to grow roses even though my research made me a bit nervous about growing them. Roses needed a lot of care, preparation, and a host of other prerequisites. However, I plunged on to grow roses.
Needless to say, my reviews were mixed at best. Roses are indeed particular creatures. I planted some in various corners, open spaces, and borders of my garden. They responded Ok, but not the spectacular I was seeking. However, I was determined to continue. The occasional fragrant trails of the beautiful blooms were enough to give me hope and energy. Well my roses did not seem to respond to my love and attention, but then something very wonderful happened.
As I was clearing away the spent tomato plants and about to store the tomato cages away. I decided to use them in the rose garden. The cages were very strong, and I had upgraded to some very colorful and tall ones, not the cheap flimsy dull wire kind. The colors of red, lavender, green, yellow, and lime surrounded the roses like colorful fortresses. The effect was visually attractive, so I left them as added interest in the garden. My own creation!
After a couple of weeks, I noticed that my roses were growing stronger and fuller. It was as if the cages provided a guide for the roses even though they did not crowd them in any way. They reached more securely for the sun and the sky. Then I looked around the garden at the other roses. It appeared that the rose bushes that braced against a wall or post column were more vibrant and fragrant.
Well of course, I have a handy bench resting near my roses in the garden that allows me to sit, admire, and reflect. As I sat thinking about my experience with the tomato cages and the roses, it clicked that the community of faith should have the same effect on us as believers as the tomato cages had on the roses. The word of God should be presented as a guide, surrounding its members with strong unwavering principles of truth. Like the tomato cages, the Word does not force its way but allows us to grow in grace as our hearts are directed and warmed through moments of trust and dependence.
The community of faith and its influence on us should allow us to grow, make choices, and still be unyielding in its acceptance of us even when we go astray. Like my roses surrounded by the protection of the cages, we are protected by the security of God’s word that stays with us and helps us find our way to the Son, to the sky and beyond.