by Beth Drechsel
The days are numbered for the peas I planted in April. They are well past their prime. On the trellis, many of the leaves have turned crumbly beige. My husband asked why I was still watering the pea vines. Wasn’t it time to pull them out? “No,” I said, “There are still some blossoms hanging on.”
Since that brief exchange, I haven’t paid much attention to the pea vines. I’ve been admiring other crops that are beginning to flourish—the beautiful flowers on the okra, the cute baby green beans, the purple Thai basil. This morning I was popping gorgeous cherry tomatoes into my mouth when suddenly something on the nearby trellis snagged my attention. Pea pods! Lots and lots of pea pods! These peas aren’t nearly as nice as those I picked early in the season. There aren’t as many, their skin is a bit tough and most have tiny pits on the pod.
But appearances can be deceiving. A quick blanch in a pot of boiling water and then a plunge under cold water brightens these late peas to an intense beautiful green, and when I bite into them, they have a crisp tenderness and are as sweet as can be. This morning I picked two handfuls of peas, enough to serve with tonight’s sweet and sour pork.
Sometimes that’s how it is in the garden. A plant might be well past its prime with a struggling, unhealthy appearance but it can persist for weeks, continuing to produce veggies for our meals. I think something similar can be true about us.
In this season of my life I feel like how that pea vine looks—dried out and used up. After years of fighting chronic health issues, my body is wearing down. Most days I struggle to get a few things done and most nights I struggle to get a few hours sleep. Pain and exhaustion have forced me to become a home-body.
Recently my husband had a serious and difficult surgery which kept him home for a month. He went back to work just in time to be part of a lay-off related to the economic downturn. So he’s home, too. Indefinitely.
And then there’s the pandemic. We have eight friends and family who have had serious cases of Covid-19, five of these loved ones were hospitalized, one died.
I’m not very happy about where we’ve been planted right now or about the indefinite unknowns. I pine for yesteryear when I slept better. Or, barring that, I wish we could go back a few weeks when we had a sense of security in a steady job with good health insurance. I yearn for the time when we no longer have to be satisfied with virtual hugs or when at least we can grocery shop with smiles instead of everyone looking like sinister robbers. I hope we can safely attend church soon. I pray for those I know who are ill and for the day when this pandemic is over. When will we be done with all of this?
This pining and wishing, longing and yearning, hoping and praying is not a result of my husband and me being overwhelmed by fear or lacking a trust in God, though, of course we have our moments of both. Mostly it’s simply the emotions that come from the discomfort of being planted in a hard place. We know God is still sovereign and in control, not only during world and national crisis, but in our own personal crisis, too. On the other hand, we’re acutely aware that if we’re not careful our discomfort could rot into discontent. And discontent uproots our trust in God’s love.
The pea vine shows me that though we might be planted in a stressful place, if the roots are good, then fruit can still grow and ripen. The pea plant doesn’t even have to be in its prime with luxurious leaves, delicate spiraling tendrils and beautiful tiny white flowers to be fruitful. It just needs to be well-rooted. But if the vine has root rot it will never produce fruit.
In the same way, our spiritual fruitfulness cannot occur when there is the rot of discontent but only when we remain firmly rooted in Christ’s love. Ephesians 3:14-21 tells us that when we’re rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, we will know His love which is beyond knowledge. And Colossians 2:7 (NLT) says, “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
In our lives, it is the small minute-by-minute choices, the private obedient acts of repentance and submission to God’s revealed truth that bring growth. Those little seeds of humility take root and grow into the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). And though it’s hard to understand or accept, this Fruit of the Spirit often needs to be plunged into the “hot water” and cold reality of loss and suffering to become beautiful, tender and sweet, and useful to nourish others.
In the garden this morning a used-up, dried-out pea vine got my attention. It teaches me to persevere in a season of stress and struggle. It teaches me that if I do so, I will continue to blossom. And it brings me hope that even those late flowers will bear good fruit to be harvested.
During this season we are planted in a hard place. God calls us to endure right where we’re at, staying faithfully rooted in Him. In doing so we can be confident that regardless of appearances or of circumstances, God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Beth Drechsel is a homemaker and gardener living in Flora Vista, New Mexico. She is happily married to her husband, Paul, and they have two adult sons. She finds joy in her simple life and in her relationships.