I am no gardener, but this summer I became responsible for keeping our tiny plot alive. With my husband too incapacitated to do it, and no other help on the horizon, I was forced to take my child-size watering can out to thirsty plants on a regular basis.
It was a question of pacing myself, taking several short trips to the sink and back again over the course of a day - and praying for rain.
My arms and legs ached tremendously from the unaccustomed effort. Some days I had to concede defeat, though I also discovered unexpected benefits.
Before long, the plants and I were good friends as I mothered them. Spending extra time outdoors made me more aware than ever before of the wonder of living, growing things, how vital it is for them to be kept alive by liquid refreshment.
One day I noticed our geranium plants had limp leaves and dry brown stems. They were barely alive.
It was suggested that I leave them alone and concentrate on the healthier plants.
A stubborn streak in me took over and I watered them, anyway - with no expectations, only a determination to give them opportunity to recover.
Nothing happened for ages, then as I stepped out the door one day I was greeted by glowing new flowers and shiny green leaves. My faith was tangibly rewarded!
It got me thinking how we are completely dependent on God for nourishment on a daily basis. He freely supplies all we need to thrive and grow spiritually as well as physically. Yet there are times when we fail to see we are dry and thirsty, lifeless, in fact.
In reading a familiar Bible story recently, I saw how easy it is to allow guilt and shame to keep us away from others and from God's best.
We can neglect to see how much we thirst inwardly for God's living water. How we ache on the inside for His loving presence.
I found myself reinterpreting the story via a lens of poetry...
She blinked, wiping sweat from her brow
as she frowned, surprised at the stranger
smiling his request. This was equivalent
to her own risky behaviour as viewed
in other people's accusing eyes
He seemed nonplussed, quite nonchalant
in fact, as he gave his responses
while she toiled to meet his need,
conscious only of the glare as her face
flared red with heat and embarrassment
She sought to divert attention
from herself, wanting to escape,
cool down, rest, take a break
Because she was already under
too much scrutiny, her past raked
up by the whole community
Yet he lingered on, loitering
with intent, eyes crinkled soft
with good-natured merriment
She was used to hearing words
of scorn and derision, but he
continued relating such riveting news
that it caused her to pause again
Finally meeting his gentle eyes,
she dared at last to hold them fast
within her own usually downcast
gaze. Now fixed on a friendly face
made warm with love, she gasped
Breathlessly blinking back the tears
and overcoming her many fears,
she abandoned her bucket,
gathered up her skirts and ran
ahead, longing for others to hear
all that he had said. In her sheer
eagerness to share the Good News
about living water she was no
longer ashamed, or worried about
what people might think or say
The woman at the well had a life changing encounter with Jesus. She became washed clean, revived, restored by grace, given fresh hope and purpose. These things are freely available for us all.
This season I've felt depleted like my dying geranium plant. It's heartening to realise how much God can invigorate and sustain us during times when we feel barely half alive.
I have struggled to keep going, wondered if words would come to write again. Then God reassured and strengthened me in my weakness.
Like health and energy, Inspiration and creativity may wither a little but they become renewed by God's grace. Hope is strong in lives surrendered to Him, who rely on the Chief Gardener of our souls to tenderly care for them.
Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer,
poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking
Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'.
She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at
her blogs wordsofjoy.me
as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in
the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter