Rooted in Love
I shouldn’t have walked over there that night. I should have waited until the morning. You see, there was this one-for-the-records-book hailstorm. You might have even heard something about it? I watched it somewhat cautiously from my front porch until the chunks of ice became major league fastball pitches hurled sidearm onto my porch. I moved my cautious observation indoors, peeking out the windows and eventually huddling in the center of the house away from the vulnerable glass. I was a lucky one. I have since heard the stories of folks caught outside in the hail, several in vehicles too far from covered shelters, and some of those vehicles carrying frightened children as their windows exploded. You may have one of those frightening stories as well. When it ended, most of the damage was obvious. Car windshields were shattered – front and back -- outdoor decorations and furniture were torn to shreds, and the yards and streets were littered with branches and small leafy twigs. Of course it would later take the eyes of certified insurance assessors to reveal the full scope of the damage to roofs and siding and other affected structures, but to this inexperienced eye, it looked like a disaster. I had just gotten home from an hour or two of weeding in my garden when the storm hit, so the garden was on my mind. This is my fourth summer season in the community garden and it was looking the best it ever has. The squash and zucchini were being picked by neighbors. Small green tomatoes were appearing amidst the tiny yellow blooms. The peppers were young, but already plentiful. I was a proud gardener that afternoon. I had even managed to wrangle the weeds into submission—an especially fierce crop this season—and that had taken hours and hours of hard labor.
I shouldn’t have walked over there that night. I guess I wasn’t really surprised. I had to have suspected it would be bad, but the actual sight of it stunned me. And I was heartbroken. The ground was littered with premature tomatoes. The tomato plants themselves were beaten into the ground. Squash vines had been hacked off. The young cucumber sprouts, just beginning to get the hang of this above-the-ground living, were barely hanging on. The pea plants had been pummeled. My ever-the-optimist husband immediately comforted me: “It will bounce back, I am sure.” I glared. This was not the time for such ridiculous hopefulness; I wanted to sulk. My gardening mentor later texted me, “You will be surprised at how much it bounces back. Just wait.” Hmmph.
I went back the next morning armed with a rake and the ill-fitting optimism of my mentor and husband and faced the carnage. Surprisingly, things did look a little better in the morning’s light. Still, I wasn’t very hopeful. I began gently clearing away the mesquite twigs and pods littering the rows and discarding the parts of the plants that were no longer connected to the stalk and its roots. I left alone anything even slightly connected, knowing as long as they remained in contact with the vine, rooted in that healthy soil, they had the chance to continue to bear fruit.
The scriptures are rich in lessons that use gardening and the language of farming as examples of greater truths.
As I was nursing my crop back to health, I thought about one of those gardening lessons found in the book of John. Chapter 15 verses 5-17. Listen to the words of our master gardener:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Remain in my love, he says. Stay connected to the source of life and growth, if you want to grow and live. You remain in him by obeying his command. His command is this: Love each other. His love shared with those around you – all of those around you -- is what will keep you connected, fully alive, and bearing fruit. And filled with complete joy. Earlier in John, in chapter 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It is why he came. So you could have this full abundant life. And he shares repeatedly the secret to this life. And it is a simple directive: Love one another.
There will be storms in our lives. Maybe none as violent as the hailstorm of 2014. But there will be storms. There will be winds that whip you around and exhaust and weaken you as you try to stay connected to the vine. There will be rains that are too hard to be nourishing, and you will feel like you are drowning. And there will be hail that knocks your fruit right off your branches and maybe cuts right through your stems.
My garden has bounced back. My ever hopeful husband was right. It has taken some time, but things are growing and blooming and bearing fruit.
You can bounce back, too. Stay connected to the Vine. Remain in His love. Love those around you. Receive and enjoy the love of those around you. Have a full fruitful life.