Last night as I left the grocery, holding a sleeping baby in one arm and pushing an unyielding grocery cart with the other, I smelled Gardenia blossoms and immediately thought of my mother.
I turned to see the white blooms and waxy green leaves of bushes strategically placed for Mother’s Day shoppers and my heart longed for her.
As I drove home, I thought of her Gardenia bush that she lovingly nursed for years. It began as a small and fragrant gift to lift her spirits after one of her surgeries, and in time it grew so large it took up half of our breakfast room.
Each winter she dragged it through the sliding glass patio doors into the warmth of our kitchen and carefully watered and pruned so that it would continue to blossom. Each spring as the air warmed, she dragged her Gardenia back into the sunlight where it grew so large that it became too heavy for her to bring in on her own.
I wore its blossoms in my hair the day I graduated from high-school and always imagined having its blooms in my wedding bouquet.
As I drove home last night, I thought about my Mother and her well-loved Gardenia bush. I thought of her faithfulness as she strained to drag its heavy pot into our kitchen each winter. I thought of her patience as its leaves dropped, its branches became barren and no blooms appeared for months at a stretch. I remember watching as she nurtured and cared for it throughout the long winter months, pruning each dead branch and feeding its soil so that it would produce more blooms. I remembered her joy with each new bud and blossom.
That beautiful, well-loved Gardenia bush is a perfect picture of faith. As my mother tended her Gardenia, so God tends our hearts.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers.” John 15:1-6
As my mother pruned each dead branch so that new life could form, God prunes away our dead branches, graciously, painfully, sometimes without warning in order to prevent our death.
After he is done, we feel bare and naked and unsure, but in time waxy green leaves begin to appear, and then buds pop from new branches. Finally, fragrant blossoms appear where the dead wood of pride and judgment, fear and anger, selfishness and disobedience once stood.
“My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. “