A garden is a place where the ways of faith can be embraced or experienced in a hands-on, intuitive way: Grow your faith while growing your garden, the NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible proclaims. That is, belief in God’s Word can grow within us as we witness the ways the plants in our gardens grow. Working in the gardens at Windsor Senior Living, the Lord let me see for myself one of the most important truths in his Word.
Case-in-point: The Potato Vine
Potato vine, Ipomoea batatas, is not a Bible plant, yet its vine habit is similar to the other vines of Scripture, mainly grapevine, Vitis vinifera. Several years ago, I was hired to beautify the gardens at Windsor as springtime arrived and the final stages of renovation were completed. The owner loved lush plants and flowers, and wanted the soon-to-be residents to enjoy the Windsor gardens and be welcomed to their new surroundings. However, like many gardens, the grounds were large and the budget was small, and we needed plants that would give the most show for the least cost. Potato vine was an easy choice. Its stunning foliage dazzles and contrasts bright blooms, very pleasing to the eye. We tucked 4” pots of potato vine all around the property to fill in and around young rose bushes and hardy salvias, shades of red flowers set against the chartreuse ground cover.
And left them to grow all summer…and at this point, anyone who has tended these vines is thinking, “O dear, you left them alone?!”
Returning in the fall, I was astounded to see the vines had taken over. The plants twinned right up and over the surrounding shrubs in an all-consuming fashion, depriving the salvias and roses of sunlight, leaving them nearly leafless. I gawked at the vitality run amuck, these vigorous plants forcing their way without restraint. I learned what vinedressers must already know: When it comes to vines, be ready with pruners. Do not plant a vine unless keeping close by to tend and direct its growth. A vine and its gardener must never be parted! The resilience and vitality of this distinctive plant type requires a watchful eye and a willing hand to train it in the way it should go.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1
God our Father compares to a gardener who continually tends his vine, knowing its need for attention and direction. God’s people compare to a branch of that vine, Jesus went on to say (John 15:5), implying that the nature of the life in us needs direction. It abounds, grows with abandon and endless energy— O gardeners, if only I could keep this mental picture and let this riotous vitality reign my attitude and pour out in my activities! Why do I respond with weariness to new ideas or a new direction? I want to embrace enthusiasm, the bursting advance of God’s life in me, pictured in the potato vine. Of course, being ever-thankful for my Father’s trimming and guiding along the way.
In this personal moment working the Windsor gardens, God’s Word became more endearing to me, growing its dimension in my heart in a way only a garden could impart.