A few days ago a friend posted a photo of his greenhouse in progress. Absent of philosophical comment to prompt my thinking it instantly occurred to me that this visual could be a metaphor for life – at least for mine. The compartments, the vegetation, the curled hose, the tractor, the bicycles, even the walkway dusted with mulch and dirt, everything a picture of life under a glass shield.
It was the tractor that caught my attention first. It seemed out of place. What could a huge piece of machinery do inside the small space of a greenhouse? The tractor, motorized and bulky, was incompatible in its current surroundings and certainly couldn’t work effectively with such boundaries. Beyond the walls, however, it was a qualified, worthy tool of the gardener. How many times in life do we find we’ve outgrown our surroundings, not in a prideful sense, but simply because we’ve expanded our horizons or discovered knew interests outside the familiar.
It seems a lifetime ago now, but there was a time when my family planted gardens that covered 2 full acres of land. I never mastered the detection of vegetable or fruit by the shape or size of the seed, nor could I identify them by their foliage. The plants had to reach near maturity before I recognized their purpose. Inside me are grains of talent, seeds of interests, roots of abilities, and developing shoots of aspirations. As depicted in the photo, each compartment illustrates the unique traits that grow into mature plants, distinct in stature, design, color, and purpose. I’ve come to realize that I am often late to recognize opportunity and am still coming to realize what I am meant for.
The gardener plans the space, nurtures the soil, plants the seeds, and prepares to work hard to see the garden proliferate and thrive. If planted, left alone and unattended, weeds will encroach and choke out even the heartiest of plants. Much like a mentor, coach or leader, the master gardener tends the neophyte plants using tools, and his own hands to remove the pests and irritants from among the healthy plants. Things like rumors, gossip, bad attitudes, and demoralizing character cannot be allowed to fester. As debris is discovered from this scavenge, it’s cut, swept, and tossed into the trash can awaiting permanent extermination. This is also a portrayal of and followship. The good leader prepares the space, provides the nutrients, and removes the obstacles, creating an environment for professional growth where followers can thrive. What can happen given the right conditions? Isaiah 32:15 “…the spirit is poured from on high and the desert becomes a fertile field.”
The gardener brings water because without it, the plants will turn back to dust. Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” The hose strung along the path is like the whole of life, isn’t it? Think of how free flowing our activities are at times. Life goes along smoothly when suddenly there’s a crimp in the flow and devastated we turn back until we regain our resolve. Then we’re off again in tenacious pursuit of our dream that compels us forward. Notice how in the photo, the hose has many curls and returns? Notice too, the solid nozzle at the end – the ornament that, when pressed by force, releases life giving water. Inside the hose, water lays dormant until the gardener grasps the hose, nozzle in hand and squeezes with just the right pressure to lightly sprinkle the plants or sufficiently soak them all the way to the roots. Leaders are like this gardener who scans conditions, matching talent with opportunity to grow team members to excellent harvest.
I love that all this takes place under a crystal dome where glorious sun shines in and all the varmints stay out. Our environment is never fully protected, there are chaotic times, optimism wanes and the economy fails us. The greenhouse, like our organizations are built to provide for livelihood and growth, but even with premium care and planning, not all things will grow. Some will stagnate, some will leave, some will turn to dust – but many will thrive in the environment. Be thankful in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”
What about the bicycles? Well – what about them? What is their meaning in this allegory? All work and no play … and now you create the rest of the story.
Photo credit: Carey Green
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw – My feet may fail, but I know God will never fail me.