Over the course of my life, I have tried all kinds of gardens. Most of them have continued to be disasters of the earthly kind, while God has continued to guide me in spiritual growth in the midst of my failures.
One year, Steve and I decided to grow tomatoes. The plants looked healthy. After a lot of waiting, we finally noticed (if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll notice that waiting thing again) that we had some small green tomatoes on our plants. And just about the time they were looking wonderful, our neighbor walked across our shared patio area for a quick visit. He had just changed the oil in his car and still had the old oil in a bucket as we spoke. As Herb turned to go, he tripped, dumping the oil onto those gorgeous tomato plants. We tried rinsing the plants off but within a couple of days they shriveled and died
When Steve and I bought our second home, the yard was wonderfully landscaped. There was a great rose garden by the front walk. There were huge hydrangea bushes under the dining room window. We had three fig trees, a pear tree, a cherry tree, a black walnut tree, and three pecan trees. There were also quite a few trees and plants that I didn’t know the names of. We lived there for about 15 years. When we moved, two pecan trees and one fig tree had somehow managed to survive. Everything else was gone.
I’ve even tried rock gardens. That was the only time my garden flourished. I was finally growing something—moss and fungus covered the rocks.
My gardening failures have not stopped me from continuing to desire and dream of a beautifully landscaped yard. I love roses and from time to time, I once again try my hand at gardening. I’ll buy a beautiful plant or rose bush. They flourish for a while, but usually not very long. All too soon they wither, die, and end up in the garbage.
One day I came across a wonderful gardening secret. I found a type of gardening that was perfect for me. I am now the world’s greatest potpourri gardener. That’s right. I grow potpourri.
You see, potpourri is made from dead flowers! So now, I can grow sweet, little rose bushes, daisies, or whatever I like. When they die, they are just right for the picking. Just when they look like they are ready for the trash heap, I grab those dried out and shriveled up blooms. When someone comments on the condition of my little blossoms, I respond, “Yes, they are just about perfect, don’t you think?”
Sometimes I even deliberately pick one while it’s looking fresh and perky, just to get that right color or shape. Or maybe I want a rosebud. I have even gathered some wonderful botanical beauties that others call weeds.
I place these botanical beauties and withered blossoms in a dehydrator. The next day they are fully dried. But they are not potpourri yet! No... they’re just "deader" than they were before. They may be pretty to look at, all mixed together, but to make them into potpourri, I have to add another ingredient.
I place my dehydrated mixture in a plastic bag and add drops of scented oil. I close up the bag and wait. (Ever the waiting thing!) Not until the oil has time to be absorbed does the potpourri begin to give off a wonderful fragrance. Without the oil, all they can do is “look pretty.” I have found that I can even add gardenia fragrant oil to my rose petals and enjoy the smell I remember so well from my childhood and mother’s garden.
Sometimes the potpourri loses its fragrance. But all I have to do is add more oil. One bowl of potpourri can last forever.
Ok, you know it’s coming - my lesson from God. Here it is. I can look good to the world, but it’s not until I die to self and God anoints me with the oil of His Spirit—until that oil is given time to be absorbed, that I become more than something that just looks good. Once His oil is absorbed, I can give off a sweet fragrance to those around me. Just as the fragrance from the potpourri is not from the petals themselves but from the oil, the fragrance we give the world must come from God.
And just as I can make a rose petal smell like a gardenia, God’s spirit can change me into more than what I look like to the world. I must let His spirit permeate my soul. I must give it time to be fully absorbed—then I can let His fragrance enrich those around me.
And just as I have to go back and add drops of oil occasionally to my potpourri, I must be dependent on the master gardener to keep me anointed with His Spirit. I must remain close in Him.
One night long ago, a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus and declared to him that he knew Jesus was from God. Jesus explained however, that it took more than knowing that. It took a rebirth. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Just as my roses have to die in order to be made into something new, to enter God’s Kingdom we must die to self and be born of His Spirit.
I found the following verses in The Message Bible. They come from the book of Romans.
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, The spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells - even though you still experience all the limitations of sin - you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive and present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, our body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8)
Personal Study Questions:
- Have I died to self and allowed God to anoint me with the oil of His Spirit?
- Does my oil need refreshing?
- Do I give off a sweet fragrant attitude to those around me?
- Am I willing to let the master gardener change me?
- Read the 23rd Psalm and meditate on verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Copyright 2002 by Judy Vandiver