I am not a fan of gardening. It requires three things I do not possess: time, patience, and grace.
I want to plant something and then never have to worry about it ever again. Not ‘low-maintenance’ but rather ‘no maintenance’. No time required.
In a similar way to the catch-phrase “set it and forget it”, I want to plant it and forget it. Not as catchy but you get the idea.
One of the things we’ve planted are boxwoods around our front walkway. We must have purchased about 15 and they are not cheap!!!
The goal is that over the years they will grow and blend so that it creates a beautiful hedge that has no breaks between each boxwood. It will look like one cohesive unit.
Unfortunately, this required patience. And time, I suppose.
Our first summer here I noticed that there were some brown patches on a few but I, wisely, just turned a blind eye and hoped for the best.
I’d like to think that is grace.
Last year, however, it had gotten worse. Of the 15, there were about 5 that were having issues, some more than others. I saw it and thought it didn’t look good.
In my head though, I didn’t really want to acknowledge that we might have some trouble on our hands. We might need to prune them back or remove them all together and replace them with a small baby boxwood.
I didn’t want to do that!!!! That required time, patience and grace!!!
They were all starting to grow and blend together, looking like one cohesive plant.
If I pruned them, they might look stupid, abnormal, incomplete or like they don’t belong. They would be so different and much more scraggly looking than the mature, strong ones.
If we completely removed them and replaced them, the babies would look so out of place. Tiny and healthier but there would be gaps in the hedge for quite a while until they had matured and started to blend with the others.
So I did the smart thing and ignored it again. All year last year. I just closed my eyes to it and hoped that they just needed a little rain or a little time. They were fine. Just leave it and it will go away for next year.
There’s that grace again.
Well, it is next year and I can assure that it did not go away. The snow has melted, spring has sprung and they are just as brown as last year if not browner.
My mom stopped by the other day and as she was leaving she said, “Oh, looks like some of your boxwoods aren’t doing so well.”
Thanks, mom. Thanks alot. I’m sure others had noticed but my mom had the grace (?) to point it out.
I replied by saying, “Yeah, I think they need to go.”
She quickly reassured me, “No I don’t think so. Just cut off the dead parts and they will come back. It will fill in but it will just take a couple of years.”
Great. A couple of years. Patience.
I actually toyed with leaving them as-is because even though parts were dead and ugly, at least they appeared full and whole. No gaps. At least they blended in with the others to make it look cohesive.
I contemplated if I was content to leave the dead or dying parts just so it looked full.
While I was working the next day, unbeknownst to me, Ted went out there and pruned them. He cut off every last dead piece.
When I came outside to walk the dogs I saw the pile of brown boxwood branches. Man, there was more to cut off than I thought. But I was kind of disappointed he had done it because NOW what did it look like???
But on Monday as I was saying goodbye to a client of mine at the front door, I caught a glimpse of the hedge.
Huh. It actually looked pretty good.
It wasn’t as ugly because it was all green…no brown parts to draw your attention. It was almost like the brown was a magnet and your eye couldn’t not see the ugly.
But now with it being all green, sure there are some gaps and holes but it looks way better because you can see the hope. You don’t see dead.
“Oh, looks like they had a problem there
now that they’ve pruned it,
it’s going to come in nicely one day.”
If I was a guest and saw it, I wouldn’t think it was ugly and that they had CHOSEN to have a ‘holey’ looking hedge. I’d know they were fixing something.
It just needs
I guess we are all boxwoods. We all need time, patience and grace, too.
I imagine heaven is filled with boxwoods and they are all perfect, unified, blended beautifully and look like one cohesive unit.
I bet the gardens and the people are stunning in heaven. No pruning needed. No risk of needing to rip something out and start from scratch.
But we aren’t in heaven yet.
So we’ve all got some brown bits, some dead branches. And that’s okay. God knows that’s what comes with the territory of gardening on earth.
It becomes ‘not okay’ when we want to ignore it and hope for the best.
It becomes ‘not okay’ when we fill our voids with dead things just so we FEEL full. If it is dead, it is still a void.
It becomes ‘not okay’ when we want to fake it and try to blend in anyways, just so we don’t look different from the rest.
Oh I try to fake it in life.
I suppose I could have spray painted the boxwoods green so that they still blended in even though they were dead. But that’s a little extreme.
Funny thing, though.
I think there are a lot of dead or struggling things in me that I try to spray paint so they still appear to be doing fine.
I like to put on a smile or post pictures on social media that portray me as the perfect mom, perfect wife, with the perfect life.
If I’m honest, that isn’t the way my life is most of the time. I would guess yours isn’t either.
We all have dead or brown bits.
One of us needs to stop the spray painting and
so that the rest of us feel safe
to show our own brown bits.
If you ignore them, they only start to destroy the healthy parts.
If you hide them, no one knows what needs fixing.
Once we let our suffering parts be known, then the gardener knows where he needs to work. And once the work begins, hope is in the picture.
And you know, when people see us struggling, if they’ve tried to take care of their own garden in life and they have pruned or removed dead things, then they are well aware that these things happen to others, too.
Things die, things struggle, things need some special attention or pruning.
But because they’ve dealt with it themselves, they are way more understanding to our holes and gaps.
They know we just need
Like their own garden needed.
“For there is no difference between us and them in this.
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinner
(both us and them)
and proved that we are utterly incapable
of living the glorious lives God wills for us,
God did it for us.
Out of sheer generosity
he put us in right standing with himself.
A pure gift.
He got us out of the mess we’re in
and restored us
to where he always wanted us to be.
And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23-24 (MEV)