I have this basil plant. I’ve tried growing a potted basil twice now. Those two times, my poor potted basil plants withered and died long painful deaths. [okay, maybe not painful, but for drama’s sake]. It was so frustrating. I couldn’t seem to figure out why this kept happening.
But then I went to Trader Joe’s and saw the cute little basils growing all in a row, and I think, “Oh so cute! Surely, this time I can do it!” So I bought another one. Third time’s a charm, right? So I brought it home, read the label, put it in a cute little pot, and set it out. One night, I noticed that it was looking very droopy and the leaves and stem were very soft. I realized that I hadn’t watered it that day, so I quickly gave it a drink. Another time, I noticed it was looking droopy, so I put it on a different table by a window that gets sunshine. It perked right up.
Now I by no means have a green thumb. My default is death. I seem to have the uncanny ability to kill every plant I’ve ever had. Its my superpower. That and drinking 14 cups of coffee a day.
But the other morning, I was up early, the sunshine pouring in the window on my little basil that I have kept alive for about a week now, and I realized, “That basil is me.”
I grew up from 6th grade on in the church. I attended a Christian college. I strive for a godly home. I am now attending seminary. I’ve had ample opportunities to learn how to study and read the bible. And yet, like many Christians, I often have felt lost when I sit down in the morning to spend time with Jesus. Do I just eeny-meeny-miney-moe the table of contents? Do I just pray for divine inspiration?
So I would buy countless devotionals, commentaries, journals, and books to try and find something that felt right. Something that made me feel like I was competent in spending time with Jesus. But you know what?
My default is death. Because of my sin-disease, I have this uncanny ability to kill the spirit of anything I do or try. I make it about me, what I can do, what I should do, and lose focus.
Lessons from a basil
As I sat the other day, realizing my kindred spirit with my little basil, I began to realize that I could learn about Jesus from this little plant. You see, when I bought those little basils in the past [RIP, dear ones], I had the best intentions. I tried everything I thought I was supposed to do. I watered them daily. I put them in sunshine. I pruned the dead leaves. I tried so dang hard to follow what I thought all the other gardeners and non-plant-killers were doing.
But the reason why this little basil I currently have isn’t dying is because I am watching it. Observing what it nees and when. Taking time to figure out what works best for it. Instead of watering every day at the same time, I wait to see what it needs and when is best to water and how much. Instead of leaving it on my dining table and wondering why it was passing on, I moved it to a sunny place. Early in the morning, I pull the shade up on the window so it will get some direct sunlight. I’m learning that each plant I have in my home has its own needs and conditions that it best thrives in.
Just like me.
Growing in faith
Just like my plants I’ve managed to keep alive in my house recently [I’ve got FOUR still alive!!], I am in need of that same care and observation. Waking up early rejuvenates my soul. I love the early morning hours. Trying to read my bible when my four and two year olds are running around the house screaming is really not the best time for me to try and connect with Jesus. But in that moment of realization, I discovered my own need for deep care. My own need for specific nurturing. If I try and do too much, too quickly [buying tons of devotionals and commentaries I wasn’t yet ready for], I will wither and droop. If I don’t do enough [skipping my morning time with Jesus], I choke and die. If I am left alone in the dark like my basil was, I don’t thrive. But when I get just the right amount of Light, I am refreshed. I am alive.
I’ve been taking a class for the past two weeks called Foundations for the Spritual Life. It has been an amazing class because it is doing the very thing I was missing all those years: it is teaching me ways to connect with Jesus. So often we think it is a formula that is the same for everyone. Get up early, pray for a long time, read a ton of the bible, and then walk away refreshed. But the best conditions for each of us to thrive in Jesus aren’t always the same. Some may love getting up and doing what I just said. Others may take stories out of the bible and read them as if they are directly in the story. Some may stay up late, put on worship music, and sit and listen. Some may love deep study and commentaries.
We have to learn about ourselves and what works best. We have to honestly evaluate what things we love and what areas we could grow in [because all spiritual disciplines are necessary, not just the ones we like]. We have to learn what makes our leaves stretch to the sky and our stems thick and strong and our fruit fragrant and tasty. We need to cultivate and grow and learn about ourselves. We need to be in tune with our own needs. Because all of us will fall to our default if we allow it. We all will wither and die apart from Jesus.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5