Thursday, August 30, 2018

If You Love Something...

I am not a gardener.

In fact, I would characterize myself as "the furthest thing possible from a gardener". What's the opposite color of green? That's what color my thumb is. So when my sunflowers started wilting, I was devastated.

Nick and I bought a sunflower plant a month or two ago because it was getting towards the end of the season, so they were on clearance. It was his idea--he knows how much I love sunflowers and how anxious I am about the state of our garden and yard (i.e. "off the charts" anxious), so he suggested that we give it a shot. Now, you have to understand how I feel about sunflowers. They're my favorite flower. They were in my wedding bouquet. They're a tangible symbol of light and hope is a world that is often weighed down with ugliness and pain. So yeah, I like sunflowers.

Freshly planted!

I loved this plant. It represented my husband's thoughtfulness, the joy of our marriage, happiness, order, and all things good (no pressure, sunflowers). But after a while, the blooms began to wilt, the leaves began to fall off, and and the whole thing turned a generally brownish color. 

As stated above, I am NOT a gardener, so I assumed all hope was lost. Even though it hadn't been a huge investment, I was a lot more disappointed than I expected to be. Yes, I loved this plant, but there was nothing more I could do for it, so I had to let it go.

But then one day as I was walking in the front door, I saw a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye. I stopped, knelt down, and saw it: a brand new blossom on my "hopeless" plant.

I made a meme out of it, because I was feeling particularly emotional that day.

Over the next few days, more and more blossoms began to sprout. My beloved sunflowers were back from the dead! Relief abounded.

When I pointed it out to Nick one day, he said, "Why don't you look up whether or not you should cut off those dead flowers to help the new ones?" Why not? Because I'm a terrible gardener, that's why not! Surely, if I tried something so foolish, I'd doom my Lazarus-sunflowers permanently! But he had a point--if I wanted to give the new blossoms the best chance to grow, I should try to do something to help them.

So, I went online and looked up the best technique for pruning sunflower plants. I just came in from trimming, and while the plant looks a little bit smaller and plainer, it definitely looks a lot healthier than it did before. 

You can do it! Grow, grow, grow!

And that got me thinking. How often have we heard the adage, "If you love something, let it go"? I mean, good intentions and all, but not always the best advice. I have yet to see how Lazarus will respond to my amateur attempt at gardening (and yes, the plant's name is now "Lazarus" in perpetuity), but I can't help but think that if I had just decided to "let it go", that would have been the lazy way out...and really wouldn't have reflected how I feel about the plant at all. 

When I was deciding whether or not to take this call out in Idaho, my then-boyfriend Nick had a decision to make. He could either let me go and find myself as I began a new ministry, or he could choose to go with me and we could figure it out together. Conventional wisdom would say that he should have let me go...but that would have been a big mistake. There have been countless times in the past three years that I've leaned on his strength and love to get me through difficult times, and that wouldn't have been possible if he had "let me go" back in New York. The single greatest demonstration of his love for me has been his choice to move with me across the country--his determination not to "let me go". 

I think that maybe a better piece of advice would be, "If you love something, help it grow". It won't always be easy or comfortable--I certainly wasn't comfortable pruning Lazarus. You won't always know exactly what it is you have to do--I'm sure Nick had no idea exactly what he was getting into when he agreed to be there with me while I took the next step. But being there for someone or something you love, not giving up, and investing your time and energy into making sure that they succeed...that's the most genuine demonstration of love that I can think of. Sometimes, you might need to step back in order to help the one you love grow. Sometimes, you might be the thing holding them back from their growth. But that shouldn't be the default solution. Your first thought shouldn't be, "Welp, I'm outta here so that they can figure it out." If you love something, you should do everything you can to make sure that they flourish, no matter how hard, or unfamiliar, or scary--that's real love. 

Now, I guess I should go water Lazarus...

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