He cuts off every branch joined to me that does not bear fruit. He trims every branch that does bear fruit. Then it will bear even more fruit...Remain joined to me, just as I also remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself.
John 15:2, 4-6 NIRV
I am very good at receiving flowers.
I am not very good at keeping them alive.
I think I grew up spoiled; in my home, every room was filled with potted plants and trees, thriving in every season. During the summertime, the house was accessorized with lush leafy plants—
ivy climbing up the giant backyard sycamore, bright purple morning glories wrapping their their squiggly vines around the lampposts, and tall sunflowers stretching their golden faces to the summer sky.
My mom has a green thumb, so I kind of just assumed this was some sort of talent I would inherit.
Unfortunately, I realized that one does not simply “inherit” a garden filled with perennially flourishing flowers…you have to work for that (womp womp womp).
This annoying concept became all too real to me when one of my friends gave me flowers. This friend is a flower fanatic—we bonded when he noticed my tendencies to halt conversations for the sake of pointing out any flowers entering my line of vision. This habit of mine delighted him, because it presented opportunities to flash his quirky ability to identify these flowers by name, along with the details of how much water and sunlight and maintenance they require.
One day, he stopped by my house with a potted hyacinth; in my book, this flower is the G.O.A.T. [for those of you who have not yet made this acronym a regular part of your vocabulary, it stands for Greatest Of All Time/aka, the best], and I was elated. I couldn’t wait until the tiny little sprouts blossomed to fill my room with the flower’s fragrant, springy scent. I loved that hyacinth.
But it died. I mean, let’s just cut to the chase.
I accidentally killed my beloved plant through my passive approach to flowercare. I admired my hyacinth every day—I smelled it every chance that I had, and I showed it off on Instagram. I gave that flower as much enthusiasm and appreciation as a person possibly could, but it still withered. Why? Because—
“You didn’t water it! Kelly Doles…telling your flowers how much you love them isn’t enough to keep them alive; you have to take care of them.”
Actually, he also called me a plant-killer, thereby revoking my privileges as a recipient of any future flowers. Glancing from the dead plant in my hands to the botanical paradise bursting in my backyard (can you say juxtaposition?), I thought about all the time my mom spent caring for her plants—she did much more than admire her plants—she tended to them. This visual became a powerful metaphor for my faith.
I am someone who loves to ask God for big bouquets of beautiful requests. I pray big prayers because I believe He has the ability to answer them, but I often neglect to acknowledge the role I must play in bringing them about.
Similar to my flower experience, as much as I love having faith, I forget that it will not blossom if I don’t do my part in tending to it…and even after the petals open, I have to be intentional about caring for it every day if I want to see further flourishing. Australian evangelist Christine Caine puts this poignantly:
“God prunes us when He is about to take us into a new season of growth and expansion.”
If we want to bloom, we must face growing pains and endure pruning. Faith isn’t compatible with freeloading, and neither is gardening. We can’t fully experience the perks of flowering if we’re unwilling to invest the necessary time, effort, and attention! When we ask God help us prosper in faith, He often allows us to encounter situations that provide opportunities for the growth we requested.
“God, make me strong.”
The painful call to let go of your long-term relationship.
“God, make me kind.”
The task of demonstrating kindness toward your obnoxious coworker.
“God, please help me put you first.”
The conviction to obediently remodel interactions with any object/goal/person taking God’s place on your priority list.
I’m not going to lie, experiences like these are painful, but I know they are paramount to our growth—they have anchored me with roots that are strong enough to keep me steady during situations that would have previously shaken me.
Is the process fun? Hardly. Is it easy? Rarely. But that’s what makes the fragrance of our faith so much sweeter, and the blossoms all the more beautiful. Most importantly, it reminds us that we belong to a Gardener whose thumbs are (thankfully) much greener than our own—in times of pruning, we will be sustained by His faithfulness, and in times of flourishing, we will radiate His goodness.