(A SEASON OF NEW GROWTH #6)
Wednesday, June 9th
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:9-12 NRSV)
My neighbor was wise to cover his newly-planted garden with straw to protect it from a late-spring frost! Emerging and tender sprouts can be damaged or killed if they are not properly protected from the cold. As Chris Bonnett from GardeningExpress.co.uk explains: “Chilly temperatures freeze the cells in a plant, causing damage and interrupting the way nutrients and water flow around it. Growth will stop, and some plants will even become dormant to avoid as much damage as possible…”1 Today we will consider how we might also keep our newly sprouting spiritual and personal growth from harm.
This post feels deeply personal to me. These recent years of pandemic and politics have prompted me to shelter within my home, hide behind my mask, and at times, avoid the news or social media. Much like the seed within its outer coat, hidden in the underground darkness, I remained protectively isolated – unaware that this shelter would actually become a place of transformation into a new and different life.
And now, I feel vulnerable as I gradually emerge from isolation into community, from masks to faces, from fear to freedom, from silence to conversation. I feel exposed, at times confused, and still somewhat uncertain about my reentry into the fullness of life.
But I also feel vulnerable because I have changed. I am more introspective. I am less social. I am more emotional. I am less intimidated. I am more of an advocate. I am less a church member. I am more purposeful. I am less driven. I feel vulnerable, because I wonder how I will be received as I emerge and grow in these new and different ways.
I want to emerge; I need to emerge. God beckons me forth, out of the soil, where I am to sprout, bloom, and flourish, where I am to glorify God with a life of loving service. Yet, I wonder what frigid frosts may surprise and deter my tender shoots as I enter into this new life.
Are you feeling vulnerable in these times? How has God worked through these difficult days to transform you? Are you gradually sprouting new dreams, goals, or ways of being? If so, how do we nurture and protect these tender new shoots? What might you need to shield from the outer frost of misunderstanding or criticism? What might you need to shield from the inner chill of self-doubt, intimidation, or longing to return to the way things were?
We can protect our tender sprouts of new growth by sheltering in God. Chris Bonnett’s suggestions for plant care serve as a guide for our soul care, too…
~ Keep watering your plants during the cold weather, but do it in the middle of the day when temperatures are a little warmer.
When is your best time of day to refresh in the waters of the Spirit? Our times of prayer, study, or reflection are absorbed more readily when we are not “frozen” with hurry or distraction.
~ If you have plants in pots, move them to a sheltered spot and wrap the sides of the pots.
Where is your sheltered place for spiritual replenishment? Could it be a quiet reading corner with a cozy comforter? Or could it be envisioning yourself wrapped securely in the love of Christ?
~ Cover tender plants during frosty conditions with an upturned bucket or flower pot… Cover larger shrubs and trees with an old bedsheet, or a large piece of fabric… Cover the soil around plants with mulch or straw… Try creating a windbreak for larger plants…
Our need for protective sheltering may vary with the size of our vulnerability. There are times when a simple breath prayer or a quiet word will do. Other times, we may need to cover ourselves more deeply with additional time and spiritual practices. We might need to surround ourselves with a supportive community, a windbreak to diminish the harsh realities of life.
~ Don’t be tempted to bring your favorite plants inside during the cold weather. The sudden change in temperature can kill them.
This is my favorite suggestion. We are called to embrace life fully and to live abundantly! Parts of us are dying when we are not fully living. Our new sprouts are growing so that we become all that we are meant to be; so that we do all that we are called to do. So when we feel ready to give up, we remind ourselves that God does not want us to live in the past or in hiding. And we trust that God goes with us as a guide and a shelter for everything we will encounter.
Like the psalmist says, “The Lord is my refuge.” As we begin to grow in new and different ways, we will safely abide in the protective shelter of God, the One who has created us to thrive.
Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV