I’ve not got a good track record when it comes to house plants. But one that I have managed to keep alive is my Christmas cactus. I even succeeded in getting it to bloom this year.
There are a couple of things I have learnt from this experience. (Not just about plants)
If I left this plant in my warm cosy living room, it would not bloom. Ever. It needs to experience some quite harsh conditions: It needs to be cold and have more hours of darkness than light.
The second thing I learnt was this: Even though it bloomed almost a month late, it didn’t matter. It still bloomed.
So I think there are some fairly obvious life lessons, (and perhaps some slightly less obvious ones too) that we can take from this. Obviously some of this will be a bit cheesy, but what do you expect? So lets get to it…
In order to bloom, we often need to experience hardship
I think this is a fairly obvious statement. But do we really live in this way? Life is lovely when everything is easy., but not so much when we are facing hardship. From my own experience, and the lives of many others, I know it to be true: In order to bloom we often need to experience hardship.
For starters, it makes us more compassionate. How much better can we understand other peoples problems when we have faced a few of our own. And it often means we have a desire to help others who are now going through the same things we have.
Paul puts it like this in one of my favourite bible verses.
We grow through suffering, it even leads to us really know hope.
But when I talk about hardship, I’m not just thinking about suffering that we have no control over. In my mind, I also have the kind of hardship that we choose. If we want to get in shape we will pick up weights which feel uncomfortable at first, and then when it begins to feel comfortable, we will have to pick up an even heavier one. When you start to think about it, there are many hardships we will endure in order to achieve something.
In order to bloom we need to be willing to get uncomfortable at times. That may mean being willing to get up earlier, or go to a place which might feel difficult to us. It may mean giving away something that we hold onto tightly. The problem is, many of us (myself included) are addicted to being comfortable. We will do anything to avoid being being tired, or hungry or cold. But if we stay in our cozy living rooms, we may never have the opportunity to bloom.
The timeline doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.
I didn’t get any less joy from my cactus blooming, just because it happened a month late. I still think it looks as nice now as I would have done a month ago. Now it has bloomed, that extra month I was waiting doesn’t seem to matter at all.
Have you ever noticed this in your own life? You can wait and wait for something, for what seems like eternity. But once you get it that time you waited doesn’t matter at all, because its all behind you. You have that thing now.
You may have a timeline for your life in your mind. And maybe that time line isn’t going to plan. Especially this year!
When the pandemic hit, it felt like it was at the worst possible time. Not only had I just got engaged, but the children’s ministry I lead at church was growing. I was so excited about the future. I had plans for our wedding, and also for the children’s ministry. Our wedding was much smaller than we would have wanted and most of the plans for the ministry have been put on hold. But God has taught me so much during this time; mostly that it isn’t just about me and my timing, but that it is all in his hands. Taking our children’s ministry online has meant that some children who would struggle to get to church normally, have been able to join us, and then when we were able to return (for a time) we were able to experiment with really good all age ministry.
There have been times when I have compared myself to my friends, what they have achieved, and felt disappointed, because I hadn’t bloomed in the same way as them. Maybe you find yourself doing this. Maybe you had a plan for you life, and you feel like you are years behind schedule.
Do you think that my cactus sat on the windowsill in the spare room/ Tom’s office (which will hopefully be my office again at some point after the pandemic) worrying about when it will bloom. Worrying about why it hasn’t bloomed yet, and why all it’s Christmas cactus buddies have. Of course not! That would be completely ridiculous. Jesus tells us its just as ridiculous for us to worry.
In this blog it may feel like I am trying to tell you two completely opposing things. Push out of your comfort zone in order to bloom, but relax if it’s not happening in the time frame that you want it to.
But perhaps these two things are not quite so opposed as they may seem. Perhaps the people who are most concerned about the future, are the very ones who don’t want to push out of the comfortable zone. Who don’t want to leave the living room.
So don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable, that is when God will stretch you, that’s when you will learn develop perseverance, character and hope, and also, don’t worry if you have to wait a longer than you thought you would.
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