Last April our family moved into a beautiful home in Sikeston, Missouri. My boys and their dad are into cooking in a big way, so as a house-warming gift my mom presented them with a mini herb garden.
I’ll be honest, the garden stayed in the box and went on a shelf, but the boys were super excited about the prospect of it. They’d pass by it and ask “can we plant our garden today?” with excitement in their eyes. After hearing “no” time after time, they stopped asking and the excitement died.
This past semester at homeschool co-op the two youngest boys decorated flower pots and brought them home with joy. When they asked what they might grow in them, Morrel and I knew right away! We got the boxed garden out of the cabinet and helped the kids plant their seeds and find a place for them to grow.
For days they waited for the little shoot of green to break out of the soil.
For weeks they waited for leaves to take shape so they could identify their plant. Which one would have cilantro? Would basil smell like the bottle of seasoning in the kitchen? Will dill grow up like a pickle?
The boys watered their plants daily. They troubleshot too-dry soil by finding a place with less light. They became more efficient by keeping a glass of water near the plant for the week’s waterings. They were careful never to drop them or carry them too far. They ran downstairs to tell us when the herbs stretched toward the window and when they began to produce scents. The excitement lasted weeks.
But, like so many other things, the excitement died, and so did [some] of the plants.
We see this in life all the time. As excitement dies away, we can let things die out of pure boredom. Chicks and bunnies brought home during Easter excitement are often rehomed by the end of the summer when the chore and cost of caring for them wears down the initial joy they brought to the home.
My two oldest sons understand the life of their plant and the responsibility of caring for it. They’ve continued to water it (sometimes with prompting) and they continue to grow and thrive. My youngest, though, didn’t consider the cost of neglect when his excitement died. The death of Mark’s poor plant was likely caused by the trauma of falling from the windowsill combined with the neglect that followed.
Relationships, like potted plants, will die when the excitement dies.
This is my subject matter, my subtitle, and what struck me as so true when Mark brought me his completely dead and dry plant this week. When asked why he didn’t water it, he said he “forgot”. I felt that in my guts! First, his excitement waned. Then for days–possibly weeks–he forgot his plant altogether. So, when it died, he wasn’t upset in the least. Why should he be?
The truth is, relationships and plants can survive and even thrive after the excitement dies. It may be long after the excitement dies. It may take a lot of coaxing and maintaining and loving, but you can make relationships live again.
I’m trying this with Mark’s little plant (even though I HATE cilantro). I moved it into the kitchen where I can care for it. I’m not caring for it like it’s healthy. I am caring for it like it’s sick. Like it’s life depends on me. To be honest, it may be too late, but I’m still trying.
Is something or someone in your life sick? Is a relationship that once brought you joy and fulfillment losing its luster? Is the tether of a once-valued relationship beginning to fray?
It may be your relationship with your spouse–your lover, the mother or father of your children. You have drifted apart. You experienced trauma together, but the care afterward wasn’t enough to revive the life of your love. You are watering, feeding, and loving someone or something else more. When you finally look up and find your relationship is dead, you may not even care because you’ve forgotten and neglected for so long.
It may be a relationship with a friend–someone you’ve known for half your life but who went down a different path. You don’t have anything in common anymore. They were part of a dark and damaged time that you want to forget. They just don’t “get you”.
It may be your relationship with God. It may be that you’ve lost the joy and excitement that came after a recent conversion, revival, or baptism. Finding time to read the Bible takes a back seat as the stories turn to study. It’s difficult to pray when you have other time constraints and other obligations. You’re angry at God and you’ve neglected your relationship with Him for too long.
Your relationships aren’t dead. They only need some attention. There is help for you.