Today’s blog post is by my dear friend Brooke – I know you’ll be as moved by it as I was.
I was just starting my first day of work and my boss was giving me a bit of a tour. She pointed and said, “Well, here’s your new office. As you can see, we have the usual: Desk, computer, printer, phone. Also, there’s a dead plant over there in the corner. You can go ahead and throw that away.”
Little did I know that twelve years later I would be sitting here thinking about all the lessons that dead plant has taught me. As it turns out, it wasn’t dead. It just required a little love and attention; and just a little bit of faith.
At first I was clueless about what to do with it. I had never had a plant; or for that matter, been responsible for any living thing. I was only in charge of taking care of myself and quite frankly, I wasn’t doing a great job of that either. But, I figured in its current state, the bar had been set pretty low. How much damage could I possibly do?
It’s probably worth mentioning that I was in a fragile state when my plant found me. I was coming out of an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship that had ended with police, court rooms, and restraining orders. I was technically homeless. The lease on my apartment had ended and as my roommates scattered, I had no real direction. I also didn’t have a job.
Luckily, through the grace of God, I was given a place to live. I was also given a strong reference for a good job. So, I survived. Barely.
With that being said, I realize now that I was not emotionally or mentally prepared for the stresses of true professional responsibility. Sometimes in the frustration of my work day, I would close my office door and sit down on the floor next to that pathetic looking plant. I would take a few minutes to prune the dead leaves. I would talk to it. I would water it. One day I even gave it some Minute Maid Limeade. What the heck? I had nothing to lose. But it came to represent a moment of comfort for me. Relief. Release.
In time, the dead plant began to turn green again. One day, I even noticed a bloom. I couldn’t believe that this poor plant had somehow managed to come back to life…in spite of me.
Over the years, the plant became my constant companion. I left that job almost as soon as I started it, but the only thing I took from my office was – you guessed it – my plant.
I put it in the back seat of my car for my drive to Richmond and made sure that it had a prominent place in my new home. My friends were always drawn to it in some way; they always noticed it. They asked about it: Where did I get it? What did I do to take care of it?
As I previously stated, I wasn’t necessarily able to care for ME, much less concern myself with the additional needs of this plant. But I provided just enough for it to survive. Not to flourish. Just survive.
For many years, that was the story of my faith. My relationship with God was such that I did just enough to survive. I was so bogged down by mental and emotional stress, fear, and pain. I couldn’t see things clearly. I couldn’t see that the reason I carried such a heavy burden was because I had not returned to my roots. I couldn’t see that if I was disciplined enough to put forth a little extra effort into my walk with God, I would flourish.
Many years have passed now and many lessons have been learned. As I sat with my plant last Sunday morning, I realized I have learned the following:
1 – We are only required to plant the seed.
God will help us do the rest. Once the seed of faith has been planted, we will have a natural thirst and hunger to grow.
I have experienced incredibly dark seasons in my life. I have denied my God, doubted him, been angry with him and resisted him. But my attempt to resist him was futile. For the seed had already been planted. Because the seed had rooted in my soul, I now carried a thirst that could only be quenched by him. Until I returned to him for nourishment, I would continue to feel a void in my life that nothing else could fill.
2 – I have continued to grow, in spite of myself.
I often neglected this plant. I have said for many years: this plant has grown in spite of me. There have been times I would forget to water it. I didn’t give it new soil or Miracle- Gro. Once, during one of my many moves, I actually forgot that I had put it in the trunk of my car. A snow storm hit and the plant remained in my trunk for a week, in twenty degree weather, with no light. But it didn’t die.
In many ways, and in many seasons, my relationship with God had a similar pattern. Although I knew him, I recognized his importance in my life, and I valued him – I would still have periods where I would ignore him. I would get distracted by the business of life and forget where I was rooted.
3 – It will never reach perfection.
Over time, I’ve paid a little more attention to my poor plant. I’ve repotted it, started using Miracle-Gro and making sure it gets the water and sunlight it needs. But, regardless of what I do for it, my plant will always have its flaws. Eventually, no matter how good it looks, the tips of the leaves always turn brown. Sometimes I can hide its imperfections by trimming some of the leaves back, but no matter what I do, this plant will never be perfect.
This has taught me to accept my own imperfections. I can work on them. I can ask God to remove them. The reality is: I will always have them. The most important truth is that I am beautiful as a whole person. If I allow the light of God to shine through me, most people see past my imperfections and appreciate my entire being.
4 – It needs the light to grow.
It has become a reminder of the importance of spending regular time with God. Whenever I am feeling depleted, I take some time to sit down with my plant. I talk to it. I nurture it. And I am reminded of its purpose in my life.
My relationship with God requires the same. In a distracted world, I have to be disciplined enough to take time out for him, talk with him, and nurture our relationship. If I want to be my best self, I am required to go to him first. If I start my day with him, take my needs to him and share my heart with him – I will be able to flourish throughout my day.
5 – Pruning will always be required.
This has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn. No matter how far I’ve come, I’m not quite where I need to be. God is continuously working things out in me. He has to remove some of the dead leaves from my life so that I may bear additional fruit.This is true of many things in my life. Friends, jobs, people, places, things; they all have a season. The good news is: If I am willing to let go and experience the pain of pruning, I can enjoy the beauty of the next bloom.
I guess by now you are wondering what type of plant I found?
Looking back, I am reminded of the magic and wonder of it all.
During a time of desperate need… I found a Prayer Plant.
Brooke Heffernon is a soon-to-be married, vivacious, life-loving southern woman. She is a Virginia native who has never met a recipe that a little Duke’s Mayonnaise couldn’t improve. She lives her life by a simple mantra, a quote from Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” She attempts to incorporate that same level of honesty and wisdom into her writing. She has a passion for food, faith, documentaries, and other people’s babies. In her free time, she can be found playing practical jokes on her fiance, Richard.
She is also my sweet friend from elementary school and has the honorary distinction of teaching me how to spell tomorrow (“it’s tom-OR-row, Kristin”).