My girl Hope and I recently purchased some succulents. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have different textures. They even come in all different shades and colors, and they are all just beautiful. Especially when you mix them together.
But there’s one thing that they all have in common. They need light….lots and lots of light to survive. If they get too much water on a regular basis, well, instead of thriving, they barely hang on to surviving. They need periods of having the soil dried out. They store the water in their leaves, and too much water, well, it’s just too much. They wilt quickly when overwatered for a time. Take this begonia for instance. It was left on the deck and when it rained, well, the water sat, and the plant was overly saturated. It’s drying out now, poor thing. And the unobservant owner (“moi”) determined to try to do better with plant care.
Another fun fact about succulents is that they are propagated easily. You can take a piece of one of those beautiful plants, dry it out, and then plant it in the soil and “Voila!” Up comes another plant. Pretty cool. I mean, it’s not instantaneous or anything…but in time, a new plant will be there.
Well, I was thinking about these little succulents this morning. How they can be such a picture of faith that thrives or ….barely survives.
When I was a young mom, nap time was a precious time. Not for me in terms of taking naps. (Nope, I surely didn’t get many naps, that’s for sure!) But it was a a precious time for me because I would sit on the couch or floor or rocker next to our french doors where light would just flood on in. I would soak in that sun, and soak in the Word. I’d listen to Elisabeth Elliot on the radio, and do my devotions. Sometimes, it was just listening to Elisabeth Elliot, but sometimes it was both. I needed that bit of light and love desperately to be able to give to my kids when they’d come filing one by one our ALL at the same time after their naps. I wasn’t consistent with everything as a mom by any means, but this was one thing I really tried hard to be consistent with—story and nap for them, and then Light and quiet and encouragement for me.
When we moved to this home in Shelby, well, there’s just not the same amount of direct light coming into the house. But there’s one little corner of the house where my little green lime chair is. And the chair is there for a reason. It’s one of the only spots where the afternoon light hits. It’s my favorite little spot. Gotta soak in the light and soak in the Word. Most afternoons during the week, I don’t get to sit there because of being at work, but weekends I get the benefit of that sun just flooding this little area.
I think walking by faith looks a lot like the life of a succulent. We need light…literal light…we need to soak it up. But we need “Light”, figuratively for me, The “Light of the World” kind of light. The God of creation who spoke light into life..and breathed our world into being. The “lamp unto my feet” kind of light that helps me find my way. The ‘light that shines in the darkness’ kind of light that penetrates through the crazy things in this world and helps truth and encouragement enter those darkest of places. Yep, I need to seek out that kind of Light, the Presence of God that floods places, situations, and hearts when invited on in. Love that. Like a succulent, I need regular doses of that for sure…and just like these little plants, I need it on a daily basis.
I think it’s interesting that succulents need soaking rains, then periods of no rain to dry on out. They do best when you saturate the soil, then it dries out for a period. I hope it’s not too much of a stretch, (because if you know me, you know how my love of metaphors and analogies makes me think a bit divergently and leave some people going ‘huh?’ ) But as I thought about these little succulents, I thought about how answered prayer for the believer can appear to come sporadically. I mean, you can get a flood of answered prayer in one area, and then have a dry waiting period where you don’t see the answers you’ve diligently and maybe desperately prayed for for a L O N G time. Might leave one feeling a bit desert-ed…
This morning, I was reminded of that. A friend of mine is overseas right now. I’ve been praying for her time as have a lot of other friends. But this morning, she shared a few things that just encouraged me to the core. A friend of mine passed away from cancer years ago. She had prayed desperately for healing as we all had….and desperately for her children….that they’d trust God through it all. All. Even if it meant an unanswered prayer….a desert…. of her death. We had short periods of showers of answered prayers and she lived longer than they had originally envisioned. But she passed and her teenagers were left with a desert of sorts. God had not granted their requests. Desert upon desert. But today, as I read my friend’s texts about her time abroad, she shared about how our friend’s son and daughter were there with the team sharing of God’s love. Sharing it because they knew of it. I’m thinking God had answered a bigger prayer, request from their dear mom who had passed. And another friend who is an author? My friend saw her translated book on the shelves of one of the rooms where the team was staying. We had prayed for years for the book to be completed, translated, and shared. And there were years of hard work and no rain. But then comes the rain…and the book was sitting right there in plain sight…an unexpected blessing and reminder of answered prayer. These were such reminders to me of the waiting period of not ‘unanswered prayers’, but ‘not-answered-instantaneously-in-the-now’ prayers prayed and answered later. I felt like a succulent in the desert who had just gotten a sweet rain that soaked to the roots. My faith was encouraged on a deep,deep level because we were seeing answers to prayers prayed for years….not days, weeks, months…but years.
I think it’s interesting that in order to THRIVE succulents need dry periods where the soil gets dry. Again, am thinking that it’s a lot like a succulent. Yes, I want answered prayer. Yes, I’d love to see them answered instantaneously like a daily shower and take away some of the daily struggles and issues in the lives of those closest to me, at home, in my classroom, in my community, in our world etc. BUT, I can’t help but think that faith in God is not an “if I see this, then I will trust. ” Faith says, I trust what I cannot see, cannot understand, cannot control. I trust that God is, even when I cannot see Him. I trust that what His Word says, that “He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion” even when it’s hard to see. I trust that if I pray the way He says, “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you..” (Matthew 7:7)…that the rain will come. Periods of time without a drenching of answered prayer can increase the faith of the one who chooses to trust during those times. I was overwhelmed to tears when I heard of the answered prayers in Mexico this morning. Because we had prayed for years. Years. And here those answered prayers were…like a sweet, sweet shower that felt so good after a dry spell.
When we’re thirsty, we appreciate water so much more. Am thinking that sometimes these periods of waiting for answered prayer only increases our desire and awareness of our need…not just of the prayer to be answered, but for God Himself to make His presence known in our lives. Am thinking a child who gets all he asks for right when he asks for it might not have the same level of gratitude and appreciation of one who doesn’t have all of his wishes granted right away. (That term ‘spoiled-rotten’? Well, ‘rotting’ is exactly what happens to a succulent that gets too much rain too often. Just saying…. if you need a visual, feel free to look back at the photo of my poor overly-drenched begonia!) I appreciate things so much more when I have to work (or pray <3) hard for them and they are seen as a gift and not a given.
Just one more thought… the Bible talks about faith being confidence..not in what we see, not in what we don’t see, not in what we can do, but confidence in the God who does see, move, hear, and control. It is confidence in the God who is for us, the God who loves us ‘with an everlasting love’. It talks about how hope does not disappoint, and how the waiting time…like the storing up time for the succulent, is not wasted. There’s hopefully growth going on then as well…in succulents, and in us.
Well, I surely still have a lot more to learn about these little plants. Case in point, when I moved them into the sun this morning, a few of them didn’t look so healthy and there was a little tiny slithery bug on one. Ugh. Yep, there’s an analogy there for sure, but we’ll save that for another day. But I’m aware that I have so much more to learn about succulents, and wayyyyy more to learn about the depths of the riches of the knowledge of God and His ‘unsearchable’ ways. Thankfully, He doesn’t require comprehension that is beyond me, He requires faith, and trust in that which I don’t understand. He tells us to come as a child. We feel the sun on our face…even if we don’t understand it. Hopefully, we feel the depths of His love as well…even if we don’t understand it. That love allows us to trust in the rainy season and drought…and not always have to figure everything out. Yeah, this little plant helps me see a thing or two about faith.
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” Romans 11:33
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7