When you feel like death is all around you ... life can grow right in that spot. Read on as Susie Lipps explains.
By Susie Lipps
I've never been much of a gardener. In first grade, I was given radishes to plant in our class garden. I wasn't a huge fan of radishes, so perhaps I didn't water them enough, but they were scrawny and bitter, affirming my dislike for both radishes and gardening.
Later in life, I encouraged my own kids to pick a vegetable to plant in our suburban back yard. In my rookie excitement to help my daughter have a good experience with her cherry tomatoes we sprinkled the entire contents of the packet into a small planter and watered regularly. The tangle of tomato plants and the resulting bajillion tiny tomatoes overwhelmed our otherwise pristine yard. For years afterwards, we mowed down tiny tomato plants sprouting out of our grass and it continues to be a family joke!
My gardening adventures had been such failures, I was surprised when I sensed God encouraging me to try again. We had just moved to a new town, not because we wanted to be there, but because we had no choice. Our life in San Francisco had fallen apart and we were banished to a "time-out" in a small, dark house with orange counter tops in a sleepy, wine-country town. Our hearts were battered and bruised with a business failure, and our marriage was falling apart in the process. Honestly, it didn't seem like God had sent us to a very nice place to recover. I was used to beauty and energy and all I could see was darkness and silence. It felt like death.
Trying to grow something in those days seemed out of reach but, since I had nothing else to do, I reluctantly obeyed God's quiet urging. I made raised beds and filled them with compost and organic dirt. I planted (only!) two tomato plants, padrón peppers, kale, zucchini and a variety of other things. Over the spring and summer, I was shocked to observe growth ... tiny flowers ... then green fruit ... then juicy red tomatoes that I plucked, sliced, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil. Closing my eyes as I tasted the goodness of a real tomato grown in my own garden, my heart was full and hope for the future began to grow in my soul.
Then came the winter rains and when the plants died, my hope slid back into gloomy despair. I ripped out the spent plants, cut them into smaller pieces and added them to the eggshells, watermelon rinds, banana peels and grass clippings I had gathered in a compost bin. As the rains continued, the compost grew increasingly messy and slimy, assaulting every part of me that longed for beauty and order. The unsightly jumble made me sad and reminded me of everything that was icky or dead in my life.
One day, as I was dumping out some coffee grounds, I noticed a sprout of green growing out of the chaos ... and another. Fascinated, I bent over to gingerly dig down. An avocado seed had produced a tiny tree. A zucchini seed had launched a new plant. I straightened up and drew in a deep breath as it dawned on me. Out of death comes life. This is resurrection. Right here in my compost heap! Something new coming out of death. Could a new relationship be birthed out of the mess of the failed relationship? Could I hope again?
The answer came as a sweet whisper, "Yes! I make all things new. I am the resurrection and the life." Now, when I'm surrounded by the compost of despair, God reminds me to look for tiny sprouts of hope.
Susie Lipps (MA Global Leadership) is an entrepreneur, most recently launching Conversations in the Vineyard which marries two of her passions: leadership and vineyards. She also cares about women in leadership and helping God's people better integrate their faith and work, which she currently does through her work with the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. Susie loves good coffee, good wine and the good conversations that accompany them.