As soon as I walk out on the porch, I know that we've killed all the plants. I've always wished to be a green thumb. When we moved to our apartment in St. Paul, it seemed that the porches on the front of the old buildings were meant to have blooms and ferns pressing against the screens or trailing out over the porch railings. I still think that--it's a shame to let a good porch go to waste and leave it bare.
I stand there with my glass of water and survey the scene: the shriveled pepper plants in their three identical white pots. The yellowed and wilting vine, hanging limply over the brick wall and almost touching the floor. The browning, crispy tips of the wildflowers.
I tip the glass up, the water gone, and an ice cube drops into my mouth. I know it's bad to chew ice, but I let it click around my teeth anyways. I sit down on the rocking bench with my notebook amid the plant graveyard. The air is pocketed with cold---the kind where you bring a quilt out with you and then keep taking it on and off as you try to decide if you're too cold or too hot. The sharp breeze tinkles the wind chime with the bird on it and the black lab across the street barks once from behind his fence. I am praying now, feeling reverent and sad and hopeful because I haven't communed with God in a while and it's left me feeling empty and crusted over. Hollow. A well too deep for my own good.
The sun is setting slowly, and I can still feel the remains of summer in the light. A slow blueing over of the streets as dusk sweeps in. People walk by on the sidewalk with their backpacks or dogs or holding the hands of little children. I keep praying and thinking about how to connect, how to talk with the Lord. Is this even worth it?
A few days later, on a Saturday, I'm back on the porch. With my notebook, again. This time I'm in a hurry, about to head out and meet someone for coffee, and it's rush hour, which is the worst around the city. I'm trying to write a lot and read some too, but I feel like I'm failing and nothing is coming out right and I have to go in ten minutes and I still have to grab a quick dinner and it's definitely cold outside now and I might as well just stop because there's not enough time for this anyways.
But in the midst of my thoughts, which are dashing around, and the dwindling time, which is slowly closing in, the plant in the corner on the brick ledge catches my eye. I had forgotten about it. I forgot about how this plant, specifically, thrives in the worst conditions. It's survived four college students and an apartment full of studying, parties, and get-togethers. It's survived weeks without water. It's survived several winters---indoors of course. No matter how far gone, no matter how wilted and crisping at the edges, if I give this plant a bit of water, it comes back. It really does. Even if I think it's completely dead, every time, the vine comes back.
In that split second, I know the Lord is telling me that this is how my soul is. No matter how far I feel separated from Him, no matter how long it has been, no matter how hopeless or sinful I feel, it is always only a matter of dwelling with him, even if for a short while, and I'm brought back in full. Just as I watered the plant with only a small cup of water, sometimes all we need are the plain and unadorned truths that God has for us.
I often find myself expecting that all the interactions I have with people, experiences, and God have to be extremely meaningful, deep, or life-changing. I don't think life is actually like that all the time. Sometimes you just have a conversation with someone, and it doesn't mean anything. Sometimes you pray and read the Bible, and you only get something small---just what you need for the day, or you're merely reminded of what you forgot. Sometimes you go for a walk just to clear your mind and you don't discover anything profound about yourself.
In all areas of life, cut yourself some slack, and remember that you're never in a place that is too hopeless. God is at the ready---swift and willing to pour vitality into you and affect the parts your life that He wants to shift.
Photo credit: Cayla Morningstar