Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Plant's Life

The little plant in my living room is blooming again. This year it seemed to have bloomed more than ever, although it definitely had some hard times, too.

I’ve written about this plant before. It sat in my front room window for years, well-watered, with decent light, and not growing, not blooming. It just existed. Then one year, at Christmas, I put it in the dark corner of the dining room so I could place the Christmas tree in the front window --- for three or four months. In my laziness to not take down the Christmas tree, I also ignored the plant, leaving it largely dark and un-watered for those months. When the tree finally came down and the plant resumed its spot in the window, to my surprise it suddenly bloomed. A single bloom, which lasted only a day, but to me it seemed almost miraculous. Friends with greener thumbs than mine said the plant was stressed, and that caused it to bloom. I thought that it had grown complacent with the good life of watering and sun in the front window, and only after being in the dry darkness for a while did it realize how good it really had it all those years, and so when put back into its old spot it was happy, and bloomed to show it.

This summer, I put the plant outside on the deck. In June, the weather was hot and humid, and the plant bloomed again. My friends said it really was a tropical plant and the June weather was perfect for it. It seemed so. Even in July, August, and September it seemed happy as its branches grew longer as never before. But with October, the weather grew colder. By the time I got around to bringing the plant into the house, it looked pretty sad. Drooping, leaves were quickly drying up and falling onto my carpet. But it only took a couple of weeks indoors for new leaves to appear, and, as seen above, for it to create a new bloom. It seemed happy again.

Happy, sad, happy, sad. It seems like our life is so often like my plant, but of course it’s not. I wrote as if the plant had feelings; it doesn’t. It only reacts to its environment. I wrote how it was happy to come back to a good spot it hadn’t appreciated before, but a plant has no memories; it doesn’t know where it was before, or where it’s going. If it was happy this last June, it can’t anticipate the next June. Only people can do those things --- if they will to. Unfortunately, some in their sadness and their sorrows, don’t. They lose their will to do just about anything.

I don’t know how to describe what I sometimes see happening to some human beings. Perhaps “complacent” is a decent description. They become complacent, as my plant did sitting in the front window for years. Not extremely sad, but not elated either. Life was good, they knew that, but, well, it was “just” life. It was like something was missing, like maybe it could be better --- but they were not sure how. They didn’t exactly feel bad about that, but kind of hollow. And so their life went on, complacently. Then a big stress struck, like my plant being put in the dark of the dining room and un-watered. My plant seemed unhappy, but it was a plant! It can’t be unhappy; it has no emotions, only reactions. But that’s how these people reacted, like the plant. To the trials of life, which seemed to suddenly come up, they reacted with sadness. They seemed to have forgotten they are not plants, and they can do so much more than just react.

The rosary is a great prayer for me, especially the Sorrowful Mysteries. Meditations I wrote long ago always still seem meaningful as I contemplate them anew, thinking on Jesus’ sorrows, and mine:
I have pains now, but worse may come.
Friends abandon me, no one cares; I seem all alone.
The heaviest weight is the loneliness
I remember Peter’s betrayal; he is not here.
I know the Father loves me.
I trust in You, my Father, I trust in You.
I always had doubts, but they were in me, never in You, Father. Never You.

In my sorrow, I see the never ending Joy arrive. I trust in You.

Do you see my sorrows, and Jesus’ sorrows there? Do you see yours? Do you think yours are bad? Jesus did sweat blood in His sadness, in the garden of Gethsemane. Does yours compare? Have you grown complacent, and so are just reacting to your sorrows? Look at the meditations above; we’re not plants to just react to sorrows. We can think on them, and reflect on our situation. We can recall past sorrows; we know they ended, and past joys. Even if friends, and even our Father, seem not with us now, we know they have been loyal in the past; they will come to our side again in this sorrow. We can trust in them. That is where we can, and MUST differ from plants. We can look at the past, and reliably see the future. We have HOPE in God’s promises; we trust in Him. And even in our sorrows, we can see the never ending Joy arrive. We can WILL to say: “I trust in You.”

Hope and love are two critical blessings bestowed on mankind. God gave men free will. Using his brain, man can WILL to hope and will to love. No matter how difficult things SEEM now, man can will to hope, to love. He is no plant which has to just react to sorrows. He does not have to wait for someone else to move him from the dark corner, and to water him.

Man can move to the light; he can drink of the water, if he wills to. He can go on, in confidence, of the coming joys. Even if it is with the assistance of needed medications, I believe in his darkest times a man can will himself forward. Hope. Trust. Love. No one is ever alone. We lead a plant’s life only if we give up all those things which make us human beings, all those blessings, all those friends, all that love. God.

And even if in our sorrows we seem only to have the strength of plants, still, the blessings are there. We can will to accept them.

In the end, Jesus says He Himself will judge us (Mt 25), but look at His criteria. He tells the righteous that they obtained heaven because they helped Him when He was hungry or a stranger or in prison, and the righteous seem to answer: “Huh? When did we do that?” And Jesus responds: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Jesus is telling them and us that He will judge us not by what we say or even what we do, but by what’s in our hearts. He’ll judge us by what we WILL to do. That’s why the laborer in the field, who only worked one hour, can be paid the same as the one who worked all day. The one who worked the hour willed to do his best; he sincerely worked for the Master and was grateful for His love. If we are weak, if we suffer pains in sorrow, yes even if we are on our very death bed, we can will to love Him; we can will to trust Him; and we can will to Hope in His promises, no matter how weak our pitiful efforts. And He will see our hearts. Ours is not to judge our efforts; His is. And He is a God of Mercy.

Have love, have hope, have trust, my friends. Even if we bloom only for a single day, He shall see us, He shall be pleased with our fragrance, he shall place us ‘round His eternal altar. We often judge our efforts harshly, but we are not the ones to judge. We are the ones to put forth the effort. We are the ones to WILL to do the Father’s will. And we need not be saddened by our results, nor worried about our future. We are not alone.

Do not be anxious.


  1. A great thought nicely written. It seems to me some people have strayed so far from the church, from love, from God that it may seem impossible to ever come back, never mind get close. As you say, we must will ourselves back. And pray and will back the lost sheep that we know. That may be a much harder task. k

  2. Tom, I love this! Even if we bloom for a single day-He shall be pleased with our fragrance-that's wonderful!

    Your prayer is also fantastic-my doubts were in me, never in you. This seems like the very place I am in right now. You've given me much to think about.

  3. Thank you, kam and Anne. Your responses are consolations to me. They made you think; any time or effort I put in was rewarded in your responses. You came from different angles at the despair I wrote of, of the despairs I've seen. You're both correct in your comments. If I made you less anxious, even for a few moments, I thank God for His love for us.