“…we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” – Romans 5:3-5
I chose the seedling because I liked what it would become. With gentleness, love, care, nurturing, ‘discipling’ so to speak, it would be ‘sanctified’ into a beautiful flower in its time. Paul wrote about it in Philippians: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…” He looked upon the church and saw past their present condition to what they already were, were becoming, and would be. And in that order.
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,” he wrote to the Galatians.
This is the will of God: our sanctification; our being made who we already are in Christ… until He who is already sealed in us, is fully formed, grown, matured, and expressed in our ligaments, attitudes, thoughts, actions…
As the owner of the plant, I was not uncertain of what it would become. That beautiful, ornate flower was already inside, it would just take weeks or months for it to show. With each watering, the roots would spread out beneath the surface, forming in the secret place what already exists: a pristine flower.
In my heart and mind I have ideas about the perfect flower, and so do others. A perfect flower should be X, Y, and Z… there has to be a standard, a model; something to look to, just like there were Ten Commandments, just like The Creator came to us in the form of His human Son… just like The Master Builder gave specific instructions on how to build and handle the Ark His presence would dwell in, and the Ark His servant Noah would construct to preserve life. But is there a flower that lives up to its finished product immediately? Of course not, or what is growth and grace for?
We love what we know the plant is and will become, and we are sure of what it will be, because not only does the material exist inside to grow into the beautiful flower, but it is in the trusted, caring hands of The Master Gardener (John 17:12 / 10:28-29). The plant that is kept by the Gardener has life. (1 John 5:12-13). It hears the voice of the Gardner, receives His living water, and grows. (John 5:24). This Gardner is Perfect, He keeps the plant from decaying, and snips each leaf that isn’t healthy while every leaf that is healthy He prunes so it will be even more so. (John 15:1-8).
As the plant sprouts petals, it stands in the presence of the Gardener’s glory, blameless, and with great joy. (Jude 1:24). Not even Solomon in all of his splendor is arrayed like one of these petals. (Matthew 6:29).
The Perfect Gardener proves His love for the plant in this: before life was breathed into the seedling, He saw what it would be in Him, loved it, and purchased it at the most costly price. (Romans 5:8). The plant is thankful for the Gardener who knows it is loved by Him and was chosen from before its beginning to become and grow in full what it already is inside. (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Knowing this, the plant takes in the water, receives it more and more with joy and gratitude, does not resist it but lets it clean and perfect it. (2 Corinthians 7:1). The Gardner’s words soothe the roots and encourage its growth. (Ephesians 5:26).
The Gardner places the plant out of the darkness and into the light (Colossians 1:13) so it may receive the nutrients in needs to become more of what the Gardner already knows it is and will be. (Acts 26:18). Soon, as the petals form and the flowers spread out, it becomes something honorable and useful to the Gardner, who prepares it for a purpose in His garden. (2 Timothy 2:21 / 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). As the flower responds to the light and grows away from the darkness, it gazes more in the direction of its newness: what it is becoming, and away from what it was. (Romans 6:19). The flower delights in the Gardner, and as its vision forms it sees Him who planted and nurtured it clearer and clearer. (1 Corinthians 13:12). Now the plant knows that it belongs to the Gardner. It does not know exactly what the finished product of itself will be, but it knows that when it reaches its fullness, it will perfect as the Gardener is perfect, and exactly as the Perfect Gardner imagined. (1 John 3:2).
Should the Gardener stop loving the flower because it is not yet what it is and will be? Should the Gardner discard it and seek a plant that is more fully in bloom? The Gardner knows that time, patience, long-suffering are worth it for the glory of what deep down already is, and will be. The Gardner sees past the imperfections, the immaturity, the struggling and striving of His plant through the lens of what it will be, and still desires it, still wants it, still longs to nurture and adore it. This is the Gardener’s heart. The very heart He gifts to His plants in measures. It is a love that does not disappoint, but is confident in the Gardener’s finished work in progress.
This is the Gardner’s will: the plant’s growth, all the way to its fullness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Now the flower, clothed in humility, is confident that the Gardner who has nurtured and taken good care of it, whose eyes are on it, who daily feeds and waters it and keeps it in the light, who began this great work in it will be there beside it forever, committed for better or for worse, through thick and thin, to carry out what it already is and will become, until completion. (Philippians 1:6).
“So take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me” – Acts 27:25