By Jessica Richardson
I sat on my porch and stared at the dry, barren patch full of weeds and garbage and I realized I was feeling much the same way inside. The soil there is full of rocks, discarded bottle caps, plastic bags, and once-precious pets the previous tenants had buried.
Though it is impossible in the 90-degree weather and high humidity to feel physically dry, my spiritually dry heart and spirit are raising this comparison to the once used narrow strip of garden
Over the last year and a half, I found myself in a situation I did not like and had no control over. At first, I questioned God, “Why are we in this situation?” “What is it that you want me to do?”
I felt like I was spending good time in prayer and in reading his Word, so why was he not answering me? Or could it be that he was answering, but not giving me the answers I wanted? The only thing I heard from him was that this situation was a small piece of a much bigger plan.
As I continued to think about the garden, I felt the faint stirrings of God’s voice in my heart. Those stirrings soon blossomed into an impulse to go a few blocks down the road to visit a local plant nursery. Plant nurseries are very common in the city I was living in, although I am sure they are very different from what most readers imagine when they hear the words “plant nursery”.
The harsh midafternoon African sun beat down on me and I took refuge in the shade of my umbrella. I am there to talk with the “mama”. She and her family travel across the city every day to tend their plants, which are in old rice bags or large water bottles with the tops cut off. Her nursery, like most others in the city, are planted beside the road and are watered using water from the ditches that run in front of them. They add a splash of color and appreciation for a world that can be difficult at times.
There are few customers, so we have time to debate the merits of each of the plants. I am a woman on a mission. Even before I went to talk with the “mama” or began the work of preparing the soil of my garden and planting flowers, I decided I would call that dry, overgrown patch my “Victory Garden”.
This comes from an old story I heard from World War I and II, when everyone was encouraged to plant a vegetable garden to help boost their food supply as well as increase morale.
However, for me, I realized it was not to symbolize victory over my circumstances, or to increase my food supply (considering that if you eat most flowers you will become very sick). Rather, it was to be a symbol of the spiritual victory God would give me in the middle of my circumstances.
God’s voice became louder as he brought the following verses to mind:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:31-32, 37 NIV
I finally settle on two types of bushes and a ground cover in the succulent family. This ground cover thrives in the sun, does not need much water, and its flowers explode into color in the heat of the day, when everything else is wilting.
We had planted these before when we lived somewhere else that was hot and just looking at them, I could feel God speaking to me again. They represented the hope found in the above verses. God would meet me right where I was. He would take the dry soil of my heart and guide me over and around the rocks of the difficult situations in my life.
It is because of Jesus’ death on the cross on my behalf, that I can claim victory. When the heat of my circumstances make things almost unbearable, I can shine with the presence of the Holy Spirit, just like my flowers do in the noon day sun.
My circumstances have not changed since I’d planted my garden, in fact, from a human perspective, they’ve gotten much worse. I still cannot see the big picture, the one that shows me how everything fits into God’s big plan, but I know he isn’t taken by surprise.
I am so thankful God reminded me of these powerful truths. Instead of stressing and worrying all the time, I now have peace. I can make it through each day without crying, although when I do cry, I know it is okay because I have learned it’s okay to struggle. God understands and is there with me.
We can remember, especially in times of crisis, that because of what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf:
· We are not alone. He will never leave us. He will take care of us. (Hebrews 13:5)
· We are victorious, not victims. (Romans 8:31-32, 37)
· Even though we may not understand God’s plan, he is in control, loves us and wants the best for us. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
God continues to use that garden to speak to my heart. I am reminded that he has not guaranteed me an easy life, but he has promised that he will not leave me. He has given me spiritual victory and enables me to thrive where I am when I let him shine through me.