I’m sitting on my back deck staring at two little fledgling plants. They are small transplants from my mama’s beautiful garden of lush, healthy growing plants. I, unlike my mama, am terrible at growing plants. I’m decent at growing people, so I am not too hard on myself but I have always longed for a yard full of flowers and green ferns. So, on a recent trip to visit my parents, Mama uprooted a few of hers and sent them home on the 12 hour drive with me to perform a little surgical garden transplant. The very idea of being able to take something strong and healthy from her life and nurture it to grow in mine has me full of thoughts and words and ideas, because a writer’s brain goes into excitement over symbolism and metaphor.
Our own growth as women is not so different than gardening. Often we look into the lives of others and see a lush, healthy growing marriage, motherhood, friendships, career or spiritual life and wonder “How does she DO that??” while our own little garden seems to be withering. We long to borrow some of the goodness in her world and get it to take root in our lives but don’t know where to start.
I will tell you the first step is crucial and essential. You really can’t short cut it and I know about trying short cuts because by nature I am a results focused, preparation skipper. When the recipe says marinate for 6 hours, I let it sit 30 minutes and figure it will be fine. But this step, in gardening and life, cannot be bypassed. You cannot place healthy life into dead soil and get growth. The soil of your heart must be transformed by the Gardener and surrendered to His work for anything to really thrive. Without Him bringing life to our dead souls, anything you plant will either wither and die, choked out by competing weeds (idols) or become a way to make yourself feel more reliant and successful, and eventually enslaving you to the results. Just as David cried out to God “Take this heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh” we must start with admitting to God we need Him to bring life to us. And the good news is Jesus offers life to us by his life and death on the cross- He will take your dead soil and transplant his rich and righteous life into you freely.
Once you have workable soil, you have to be humble enough to admit to others you need guidance. Easy enough to say about growing plants but certainly harder when we admit our marriage is struggling, our depression is gaining ground, we feel overwhelmed by motherhood. In a world full of social media and celebrity, rather than exposing a struggling garden we often hide behind fake plants- carefully crafted photos and statuses, cute clothes and updated decor in our living rooms become screens to shield the view of marriages in trouble, kids rebelling or brokenness in spirit. Yet all the while, in the body of Christ there are so many women full of gifts and talents and experiences for us to draw from. There is no shortage of instruction or nurturing available if we will simply be humble enough to ask. Look for women who are transparent about their strengths and weaknesses, who are deeply rooted in Christ and ask them to teach you.
Finally, follow their instructions. This seems obvious, but as my repeated failed gardening attempts have taught me, it is easy to second guess the method and system from a mentor because it feels so unfamiliar and often by our estimation, unnecessary. If you are learning from a woman who is strong in an area you are weak, you must actually take uncomfortable and different actions from what you have been doing to get a new result. Change is slow. Growth is slower. But in order to move from withered plants to fruit producing gardens, you must patiently and consistently follow the direction of wiser women around you. Sisterhood is such a gift in the body of Christ! Embrace the process of learning and teaching others, as we all have places of strength to offer from and weakness to grow in.