I’m not very good at keeping plants alive. I forget to water them. I leave them in the sun, and sometimes they become parched. I even have a penchant for killing succulents.
That said, I love flowers. Watching them grow and bloom makes my heart swell.
In this time of COVID-19 and sheltering at home for months, I’ve been longing to see more things grow. My heart needs light and color when the world is swirling with disappointment, cancellations, sickness, and racial tension.
A few months ago, I went to a local nursery and picked out two new rosebushes to plant at my house. I walked the aisles and finally chose from among the dozens of varieties.
I’m always drawn like a magnet to the two-toned roses. I picked out two tea rose varieties – one called the “Dark Night,” which promised roses with crimson petals and yellow centers, and the other named “Double Delight,” with velvety white petals that gave way to bright magenta at the edges.
We planted my rosebushes on an overcast day before the heat hit hard. We packed fresh, organic soil around the base of each rosebush and watered them generously. I started a new routine of going out every evening to check on my rose bushes. I felt maternal and nurturing, watering them nightly.
The first week all their leaves and blooms shriveled up and fell to the ground. The second week the stems turned brown as well.
Was I doing something wrong? Watering too much or too little?
I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law, who is the “plant doctor.” She has a knack for reviving any little haggard plant and propagating even the smallest cuttings. She assured me that the rosebushes were okay.
“They’ve just been through trauma,” she said. “Keep watering them. You can’t water roses too much.”
So, I kept watering and wondering.
A week later, my mother-in-law came over again and declared, “We need to prune the rose bushes.” I delivered a set of garden clippers and some gloves and watched her carefully clean off all the dead leaves and trim back all of the branches.
She showed me how the stems were turning green again and the places where new shoots were emerging. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Keep watering them every day,” she reminded me.
So I did.
The stems looked bare. Thorns poked out in all directions like bad morning hair. There were no blooms in sight. But I held onto hope. I knew my babies had been through shock after being transplanted to a new place with different soil.
Like all of us in this strange season, they needed to be watered. They needed to root in the new soil. They needed extra grace when it came to producing. They needed extra attention until they could be brought back to health and blooming again.
I recently hosted a workshop for women leaders where a few of my friends who are experts spoke about trauma. My friend, Dr. Deshunna Ricks, taught me that we experience trauma in a variety of ways, including direct experience, witnessing an event, hearing about something that’s happened to someone close or a member of one’s race. We can even be harmed by repeated exposure to a traumatic event on social media.
Friend, we all have experienced trauma of some kind in our lives. Even this time of COVID-19 and racial unrest in our country has been traumatic for many of us. As women, many of us are leading, parenting, and ministering to people who also have endured trauma in their lives. Trauma affects the brain and our ability to function. We need to speak life and love to ourselves and others affected by trauma.
My friend Whitney inspired me to look at the story in John 4 of the Samaritan woman, who met Jesus at the well through a new lens. This woman had endured trauma. She had five husbands in a time when women were not allowed to divorce men. She carried the burden of relational trauma and perhaps other kinds of abuse. She was an outsider in her community. Even the disciples questioned Jesus for having a conversation with this Samaritan woman. Men did not talk to women, and Jews did not talk to Samaritans, a people group considered unclean by the Jews.
Jesus went to the well with the purpose of healing this woman and revealing Himself as the Messiah.
He tells the woman, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life”
John 4:13 (NLT)
Jesus spoke to her about a living water that runs like a spring and nourishes, heals, and brings eternal life. This water differed from the water that came from a well. Jesus declared that He was the Messiah who brings new life.
The woman was transformed by her encounter with Jesus. She was used by God in her healing and granted the privilege of declaring her testimony to her community. Like the Samaritan woman, we need to be nourished by God’s Living Water, which brings us to flourishing.
Last week, I stepped outside and squealed with wonder when I saw a flash of crimson. Layers upon layers of velvet petals cupped that one glorious bloom. My first “Dark Night” rose embraced the daylight and declared that she, too, had been transformed by the Master Gardener.
Like my rosebush, we need nourishment after trauma. We need to be patient with the healing process. We need to speak love to ourselves and others. We need to trust the Master Gardener is rooting us anew and shaping His roses for the future.