By Contributing Writer, Rachel Coltharp
“Lovely flower-beds.” That’s what my husband told me this clay and rock-infested patch was. Lovely worm pit was more like it. I looked with suspicion into the eyes of The Great Fisherman (also known as Husband Dear) as I poked at it with my finger. Was this a ruse to start a free bait farm? “Just close your eyes and imagine it filled with roses,” he said, and then he whispered some of my favorite words, “Which I will gladly purchase for you.”
I closed my eyes and sure enough there before me was a rose bed filled with fragrant flowers. Many a happy hour was spent pouring over the Jackson & Perkins rose catalog. Ahhh, how lovely it was going to be. At last spring arrived; I purchased a book on roses and was surprised at how fragile the little boogers can be. Till in the soil amenities, check the ph balance, dig a humongous hole, use gravel for drainage, take care of the root ball, spray for bugs, watch for leaf mold, water only in the morning, and on and on the list went.
Undaunted, I began the work of turning the clay pit into a rose home. Let’s just pull the curtain of mercy over the actual amount of work and money and pain that went into it. A word to the wise… use gloves. The thorns are not there to add textural interest. And NO, you are not careful enough to prevent getting snagged. Another word to the wise… don’t do your tilling or digging with sandals on.
It took us three years to get it all right. Too little fertilizer and they are puny. Too much fertilizer and they burn up. Too little water and they burn up. Too much water and their roots rot. It’s a constant fight between you, the leaf mold, the bugs, and the thorns. But at last, at long last the rose bed is filled with fragrant roses. They climb up and over and around the deck beams and are a thing of beauty. Mission accomplished. But the most beautiful thing about it was not the roses… it was the labor that went into getting them there, for by my side each laborious step of the way was my daughter.
At the tender age of 3 she helped to dig in the sand and soil amenities. She helped pick out the plants. She shared my disappointment as they promptly wilted and died. The next summer she helped weed, plant, and prune new ones. Together we sheltered them from the winter winds with rose cones she learned to anchor. The following summer, as we dug up the ones that didn’t make it, she insisted on funerals and burying them with dignity. Finally, by summer #3, we enjoyed the fruits of our labors and celebrated the fact that they all survived and even thrived. And we did it all… planning, planting, pruning, digging, weeding, de-bugging and finally cutting bouquets… together.
A Christian life is like a rose garden, for it is a constant work in progress. It begins with the Master Gardener walking around looking at barren clay pits thinking “That is a lovely flower bed,” for He doesn’t see us as we are; He sees what we can become.
He pitches the idea to us: the trade of abundant life from our infertile existence. And step by step, together, we work to make that vision a reality. We dig out the old infertile clay of self and sin and add in life-producing soil of God’s Word. We carefully plant good works and deeds, weeding out old habits and sinful human desires that tend to rear their ugly heads daily. Through the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study we guard against any fungal growth of bitterness and mold of pride.
We prune, cutting out self-will, selfish ambition, and non-productive growth from our lives. When chilling, killing winds blow our way, as they certainly to do for everyone faces winters of the soul, we are sheltered under the protection of God’s promises.
Some things die in our lives, and we are faced with the ugly bare branches of failure. Sometimes it was for reasons beyond our control, but sometimes it is through our own actions. The valuable lesson to be learned is in facing the failure and determining what, or if, we can circumvent it from happening again. Some of life’s most valuable lessons are learned through failure. Some of the most beautiful things in life are direct results of learning what didn’t work the first time.
And when our seasons have drawn to a close, when we look back over our years of toil, our seasons of planting, pruning and growth we won’t glory in our efforts. The beauty of our accomplishments will pale in comparison with the beauty of working with Him. While we are indeed a work in progress, there will be a harvest day for us all. Then, transplanted into the Heavenly garden, we will bloom free of all the pains and toils of earth, forever to bloom beside the Rose of Sharon.
Rachel Coltharp is a pastor’s wife of one and mother of four. She is fluent in four languages: Infantese, Toddlerspeak, Teenlingo, and Husbandism. She is a writer and public speaker who shares from her real life experiences, mostly mistakes and do-overs. She is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and an avid disciple of the the Apostolic doctrine. Find her sharing devotions at The Write Word and all things domestic and re-purposed at Galaxy Coltharp.