Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s that time of year to ready the garden for the (long) winter. It means cutting back and covering over, and it often means wintering over. I’ve not had much success with wintering over plants, but this year I have renewed enthusiasm to give it a try, to provide safe harbour from the winter’s cold for my geraniums and hibiscus that have blessed me with such beautiful blooms and luscious leaves this summer.
Harbour. The word brings visions of boats tucked in and moored within the protection of a small cove while the storm passes. Ships clinging by tether to docks, passengers and captains and pilots bustling up and down the gangway, the smell of fresh paint and the sound of hammers swooshing and drills whining, the weaving around hobby fishermen with their lines dipped in lapping water. It too gives greater texture to the expressions like safe harbour, harbouring a fugitive, not the brightest light in the harbour, and harbouring a grudge or resentment.
“Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
(John 14:27, The Message)
Much can happen while in the harbour. The wise use of time spent there can be to great advantage. Vessels can be repaired and renewed and restocked. Plans and course direction can be revisited and revised. Opportunity for renewal, if you will. But does the vessel remain forever tethered in a harbour? Unlikely. Ships are meant to lift anchor and set out to sea; meant to sail to fulfill their purpose. If they remain forever in the harbour, they become at best dormant tourist attractions, at worst chunks of rot and rust floating in the water.
Hmmm… I often spend waaay too much time dry-docked on judgement in the harbour, on unforgiveness and nursing wounds so much they can become grudges. Clinging to the dock of guilt, of resentment. Surely not a wise use of my time whilst in this safe and protected cove of recovery, of opportunity for renewal. No, many of those times whilst anchored I’ve failed to seize them as moments to rest, recoup and review; to reap godly wisdom, to develop godly character and integrity, to learn and lift anchor to move on; to hoist the sails and catch the winds of new vision that carry me to ports unknown, to embrace with renewed enthusiasm that which the Lord offers out to me like a treasure map.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Where I am, where I stay, is my choice. Mine, and no one else’s. Mine. Independent of circumstance and situation and what’s in other people’s heads and how they act. I am responsible for my choice, and its harvest. To remain anchored is to rust, at worst to be pointed at as a tourist attraction. To untether is to set the sails into the winds of hope and potential of adventure into the unknown. But to be very honest, I don’t know that choosing to untether and move forward means that I can force myself to fully forget what storm anchored me there in the first place. I don’t know that most of us are honestly entirely capable of that. Just yet anyway. What I think it means is this: strengthened by the Captain’s Hands around my own, stocked by Him with greater awareness, with greater wisdom, with seeds of integrity and godly character planted or fertilized or watered or a combination of all three, He and I together untie the tether that anchors me down to the dock. Freedom is mine in the choosing, in the agreeing to loosen the knot with the Captain’s help, in choosing to pardon: an act that will and really does liberate me too I soon find out. Freedom is mine in what follows that choice, for it ultimately brings relief as it releases responsibility into Hands that are more just, more willing, more able and more knowing than my own. I can use my freedom to choose to shout, “Lift anchor!” and to move forward in freedom, into freedom.
“If you choose to lock your heart away, you’ll lose it for certain.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Friends, we are not meant to stay anchored in the harbour! We may spend some time there, but we are not meant to become its permanent residents. Just as the geraniums and hibiscus are meant for the outdoors in the Spring, we are so meant for the wide open, to bloom and spread in the glorious vistas. We are meant to sail on the open seas, to breathe in the healthy salty air, to enthusiastically say “Aye!” to the Captain and trust the great Plan He steers by.
And His wind in our sails cannot move us if we choose to remain tethered to the dock.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:36, New Revised Standard Version)
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
(Galatians 5:1, New Revised Standard Version)
Soil and Seed
My hostas were just lovely this year! They grew profusely, and were wonderfully lush, with their beautiful lavender sprigs of bloom and waxy emerald leaves with streaks of cream and white fanning out in easy mounds. But it’s now Fall, and it’s time for me to set about dividing.
Apart from the task at hand, I don’t do much thinking when I divide plants. But consider what it involves: driving the razor-sharp blade of a spade around the luxurious emerald leaves to cut off the path from its outward stretching tender roots, ripping the plant from the rich soil it has so far flourished in, wiggingly and shaking and tapping that earth from its roots, slicing the plant into quarters with another keenly-honed knife to separate it, and then tearing and ripping tubers apart from their closely braided kinsmen.
As Jar-Jar Binks would say, “Ouch time!”
According to seasoned gardeners, dividing certain plants, like hostas, keeps them healthy. Its keeps them from overcrowding themselves and other plants, from otherwise producing smaller and smaller flowers and foliage as they grow in the shrinking space that affords them, crowding out and starving their centers from air and nourishment. Dividing can keep them from gobbling up and diminishing the space of other plants, and from growing completely out of control. The process of dividing though is just a bit brutal for the plant.
“In this world, you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have ovecome the world!”
We will have trouble. We will have shaking and wiggling and slicing and tapping. We will be driven from the quiet and perky beds of contented tranquility, sliced apart and thrown onto the hard pathway stones of not. Life will hum with peace, and then … !!! We will all struggle inwardly between what we believe and what is actually happening. We will all ache to find answers to the why? what? when? and search the depths and skies for saving relief as we sit in it. Oh, but friend! What immense potential lies here; lush fertile ground for the growth of my character. And more than that, I think it could very well be essential for me to grow, for without facing adversity, we would never develop, never learn, never stretch or spread out or mature to flourish further from where we are.
“Sensitivity and reactivity to noxious stimuli are essential to the well-being and survival of an organism.”
No one argues that physiologically, and spiritually, pain is a very unpleasant signal – a blaring call to attention, a yelp for treatment and help for the threshold that has been breached. But what if it’s the next chapter in our life-story, a twist in the plotline of our character that brings us to the crossroads where faith and distrust collide, or a cliffhanger that hints a celebration of glorious transformation? What if it is the stage and grounds of discovery of new buried-deep treasure, hidden as golden seeds far below in the garden beds of our spirits and souls? What if how we approach and move in the trouble, and through it, will cause a ripple effect that washes outward, far beyond ourselves and our imagination? What if our own little response could even begin the groundswell metamorphosis of phenomenal widespread change? That change we hope for in others, and in ourselves?
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message)
Who, or who, we consider to trust, to turn to as that trouble throbs determines how we approach it, what we do with it, how we recover and heal and where we go – if it is forward into a more textured landscape of wisdom and rounding-out faith, or spinning in place and languishing in our overcrowded mob of thoughts. And that mob of thoughts is such a heavy and burdensome place! I find that if I obstinately refuse and deny my mind and heart to acknowledge and answer the call to step into the mysterious freedom of patient, kind, believing and hopefilled Love; if I squeeze my eyes shut to the Presence of my dedicated Gardener, I always lumber and stagger under the weight of lingering hurt and unanswered questions. Ah, but if I turn to the Gardener though! I begin to feel strangely much lighter, more at peace and oddly confident in His presence as the Overseer of every detail of my life. He knows. He. Knows. and I find assurance in His knowing. I just might well be able to endure this separation or division! I can even snatch faith in the glimpse of hope in its outcome!
I wince and feel my hostas pain, but not so much that it stops me from proceeding, for splendor lies ahead! I know what I’m doing will make the principle plant healthier, and will spread the beauty of its waxy emerald leaves to other parts of the garden, serving to provide shade for Impatiens, and contrasting texture and pop among the Shasta daisies! I know the timing is right, for the conditions are cooler and the air moist to alleviate the stress and encourage quicker recovery!
Likewise the Gardener must know, must see, must want for me, for us. How much more must He feel my own troubles, and yours my friend – for He has felt and lived the same! How much more must He hover and surround, must design even a peep of His Presence for us at the darkening sunset, in the discovery of His treasure planted deep within under the cover His star-light twinkle of the overnight hours, and in our stretching out transformed by growing warmth of the coming sunrise!
And friends the sunrise always comes – and with it, the hope of the breathtaking view that awaits to be shared in the fullness of the sunshine!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that!” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Voice)
Soil and Seed