A Garden of Variety by Hannah Alexander

I have never been a gardener. The last time my mother made me work in the garden pulling weeds, I pulled out all the carrots. And not on purpose to convince her to stop making me work.

When we moved to a place with a pre-planted flower garden, many of the flowers were already gone for the fall/winter months, but this spring has burst forth with so many colors and shapes and sizes that we often just stand amazed at the beauty.

None of these flowers are alike. Even the irises, purple and gold to denote school colors, smell differently and are different sizes.

These living things need to be planted in different spots, some take more water than others–not that I would know how to do that; the former owner set up a sprinkler system that runs automatically, and since he’s the sprinkler guy in town, I can always call him or his green-thumb wife with questions.

I thought roses were difficult to grow, but even though I did nothing with last year’s rose bushes, blooms still came out amongst the thorns. The determination of these blooms to return again and again amazes me.

Of course, surrounded by all this beauty, I can’t help getting philosophical. There is a huge pine tree that spreads across the flower garden in front of the house. I was told by the former owner that they’d had the weeds sprayed in the driveway a few years ago, and the sprayers got too aggressive. They poisoned that lovely tree, and now its branches are half dead. We’re hoping we can bring it out of those death throes, but someone more knowledgable than I will have to do it.
That poor tree could be chopped down, I suppose, leaving all the beautiful flowers to shine in all their glory, but I wonder, would we do that with a human being, perhaps a Christian who might be struggling with faith?

Is that what God would have us do? I have friends who have endured great loss and suffering, and unlike other friends who have come through their suffering with increased faith, many of my friends seem to be struggling. They need to be held up and loved, the way we keep watering our poor, sick tree.Okay, this shot is not of plants growing sideways, but Mel shot sideways to get a better look at the garlic, iris, and columbine blooms. How unique each bloom is. No two species are alike, and yet they make such a beautiful garden.As Christians, we obviously read certain things differently in the Bible. Some of us need to dig deeply, seek out the hard stuff that might seem contradictory to the verses or books surrounding it. Some of us need to face the hard sayings and learn to deal with them. I’ve read through Hard Sayings of the Bible so many times that it fell apart.

Other Christians take the Bible at face value, allow it to nourish them, and never question God about the words written. We vary so widely in what we believe is most important or of lesser importance in the Bible that we have a vast array of denominations, and even within each denomination, church members will disagree on certain parts of the Bible.But we, the believers in Christ as our Savior, have been charged by Him to love one another despite all the differences. That means you and me and the person who is struggling. There are Christians who can handle the questions of others without becoming confused or upset, and there are Christians who see these questions as attacks against their God. Might I suggest that God planted all of His children to be used exactly where we are, even if we don’t always agree? See the columbine and the garlic blooms resting side by side in our garden? They serve different functions and their beauty differs. I was amazed to find that the garlic bloom smells wonderful, and that I can’t smell the columbine quite so strongly. I can squeeze the leaf of one of the mint leaves nearby, and get a rush of pleasure.This peony, in all its brilliant color, smells so sweet, and yet it doesn’t flavor our salads the way new garlic or mint leaves or dandelions can do.

I find that those who are struggling with their faith or asking me questions I can’t answer actually help me strengthen my faith as I search for answers. Isn’t it amazing that those who might be weak and struggling through their faith walk are actually building up my own? They are being used of God in unique ways. They belong to God, and are being used according to His purpose. Whenever I think about it I’m amazed by the way God works.

The Apostle Paul said for us to challenge our faith daily so that we know we are doing God’s will (paraphrase mine.) I’m thankful for those challengers, because they cause me to dig more deeply into God’s Word.
And now, because Camy Tang’s extraordinary article about ten thousand reasons resonated so beautifully for me, I would love to point out that her passion for reaching those who speak the Japanese language is a powerful message.

I would also like to point out that at least since the time of Babel, none of us speaks the exact same language. That’s because each of us is unique. I have my own experiences that have shaped my outlook on life, my language. No one else uses words in quite the same way that I do, or in the same way you do. I can say something to Mel that makes perfect sense to me, but he looks like a deer in headlights because he doesn’t want to tell me he thinks I’ve lost my mind. And we’ve been married for over two decades. I challenge myself and any who would accept this challenge to stop and listen to those who might speak differently from us. Don’t shut them down because their questions might make you uncomfortable. Don’t shut them out because you think they are seeking to destroy your faith. Be strong in the Lord and have faith that He will hold you in His arms against any power. Try to allow your love to show to even those who might seem unlovely to you, because they need Christian love as much as, or more than, any other Christian. Try to see past the words to the heart. Try to love despite language differences. That’s what Camy’s doing, and I want to do it, too.


About alexanderhodde

We love to hike, we love to read, and we love to write. We are active in a small house church that recently moved into a building that was once a parts store, so life is fun and exciting for us.
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