Contrasts have fascinated me throughout this spring and summer season. In my speeches, we have been exploring stories from God’s Word of garden and desert, lush and barren landscapes, and garden expressions of darkness and light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5 NIV
No wonder, then, I have been drawn to a tough and spectacular ground cover for my garden: wandering Jew. The purple variety is simply stunning (also known as purple heart), its dark, dramatic foliage eye-pleasing on its own and vibrant next to all shades of greens. The contrast is captivating!
A resilient perennial, wandering Jew handles shade or sun (the darkness/light theme recurring), though fills out best in the brightest–even heat intensive–flower beds. I have planted it across the different terrains of our yard, eager to see it multiply, fill, and overcome bare patches, infusing delight and visual flare to our landscape.
For more fantastic stories on the tenacity of the plant, see the discussion at www.davesgarden.com. Some people have propagated spilling pots from a sprig scooped up off the nursery store floor!
Two Words on Wandering
Two remembrances embrace me as I water my 4” starts each morning or every other. First, to pray for those who are wandering:
My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
James 5:19-20 The Message
Second, to accept that wandering is a normal part of God’s story; that is, a life loving and following God has Sinai Desert-like moments. Instances of circling the same issues. Long stretches where life seems to lack simple direction. Moments when wandering means wondering, “what-the-heck?!”
The wandering exposes its contrast–I don’t want to be aimless, I don’t want to be drifting. It feels like the opposite of what I should be…it does not feel right. I ought to be productive, not pointless! It is a hook, the wandering, to connect us, to lead us back. Holding on to what we know about God and believe about Jesus, living humbly by faith, shepherds us into “faith country.”
That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here…
Ephesians 2:19-20 The Message
Wandering Jew’s beauty and presence in my garden gives me a gentle reminder that wandering is part of the journey of God’s landscape, a purposeful planting. In the plant’s flourishing growth, I am instructed and comforted that aimless movement will become useful, a pathway challenging me to hold on desperately to the One who holds all things.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV
Prayer: Dear LORD, thank you that your epic and eternal ways are written into my daily landscape–your Word connects to my land. Even the groundcover I plant nonchalantly can serve as a reminder and a visual revealing of your Word that guides my life. Help me to return to you relentlessly and love you deeply, even as I wander along the way. May the humility of this journey grow compassion in me for fellow wanderers.
When a Jew returns in love, his deliberate transgressions become like actual merits, for the very consciousness of distance from God resulting from one’s transgressions becomes the motivating force to return to God with passion even greater than that of one who had never sinned.
– from “The Hebrew Letters Vav: Connection,” www.inner.org
More wandering Jew horticulture:
To clarify, wandering Jew is not a plant mentioned in the Bible
Some note zone hardiness 9, but it grows with vitality in our zone 8 (dies back in winter) and many north of me report its resilience
Wandering Jew grows well in hanging baskets, in pots, and as a house plant. Some prefer to keep it potted to contain its invasiveness
Requires an even watering: not quite drought tolerant in my opinion, but hardy to challenging conditions
Photo Credits © 2015 Shelley S. Cramm
Wandering Jew blooms dainty lilac flowers and its hardy, deep purple foliage contrasts the garden’s bright greens.
Wandering Jew planted among Swiss chard seedlings intensifies vegetable garden color.
A bare spot next to grey-green wormwood between driveway and fence will hopefully fill with wandering Jew, creating a captivating drive-up view.