I stood at the window, looking out at the wind bending the trees and ruffling their skirts. I had been talking to God about that wind, or rather, He’d been talking to me about it, when my eyes fell upon some landscaping near the window. The front of the patch was packed full of pansies.
Here in Florida pansies are considered winter flowers, but when we lived in South Dakota they were the mainstay of my summer flower beds. They don’t care for high heat, but if you keep enough water on them they’ll tolerate the heat for brief periods of time. In South Dakota the weather changes every five minutes, so it wasn’t a problem. My flower beds and containers were dripping with a glorious jungle of pansies, lobelia, and sweet alyssum. It was a riot of color.
I wasn’t alone in my remembrances.
Do you remember how to take care of pansies?
“Yes…of course. They aren’t fussy. But they sure take time.”
Which part takes time?
“Keeping up with all the deadheading.”
Deadheading is an horticultural term with a super simple meaning: picking off the spent blooms. If you don’t deadhead, the plant uses its energy to make seeds. If you pick off the spent flower before it can make seeds, the plant will hurry to bloom again because it really wants to reproduce itself. The more you pick off the dying flowers, the more the plant will bloom. It’s really just an exercise in being smarter than a pansy.
And then the rest of the picture came flooding in.
The way to keep the plant blooming robustly is to pick off the fading blooms just as they pass their prime and begin to droop a little. And that is the hard part. The bloom doesn’t look terrible at this point. It’s still colorful, but just a little tired looking. Pinching off that bloom often feels like cutting life short. But the reality is that bloom has already inched past maturity and will quickly use up the plant’s resources in a way that no longer produces beautiful blooms. And with pansies, the beautiful blooms are the point.
God never wastes a lesson anywhere, even in nature.
I wonder how often I’ve fought to hold onto something in my life that still seems useful even though it’s begun a gradual state of decline? I can pour time and resources in it until I’m down to doing CPR on a corpse, but the truth is that by holding onto the old things that were once fruitful and good because they don’t seem quite dead yet, I’m preventing the growth of new things that are fruitful and good. I’m cutting off my own opportunity to see the new things that He’s doing.
And I love seeing Him do new things.