Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted, or Don't

bloom where youre plantedIt must have been at least 1,000 times that well-meaning role models told me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” As soon as I started going to youth summer camps and youth retreats and youth groups, everybody and their brother had the same advice. “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Some phrases become cliché over time. This one was born that way, which doesn’t necessarily make it bad advice. It is biblical to compare people with plants. “He is like a tree planted by the streams of water.” (Ps. 1:3) “A good tree bears good fruit.” (Mt 7:17) ” Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2,3) And the list goes on and on. So, “bloom where you’re planted,” is not metaphorically defunct. The analogy is fine.

The content is fine, as well as the form. A flowering plant fulfills its role before its Creator by producing a flower. As children of God, we too ought to fulfill our purposes. As a matter of general principle, that about covers it, but there’s also a personal application that is beneficial for the Christian to remember: A rose doesn’t produce a tulip. God has given us our own personalities and gifts that are distinctive to each of us individually. As surely as a good tree doesn’t bear bad fruit, neither does a grape-vine produce jelly beans (although, that would be cool to see.) Those well-intended youth directors that exhorted us, over and over, to “bloom where we’re planted” are right; we should use our gifts and resources for God whether they be few or many. He’s happier with a devout widow and her mite, than he is with millions of dollars from someone who’s holding something back.

There’s another aspect where the adage makes a good point. We should not wait until a different situation arises to decide to get to work in Christ’s Kingdom. The “where you’re planted” part exhorts us to fulfill our callings presently, and not at some other time in some other place. If you’re always waiting for a better time to do something for God, then you’ll grow old and die without ever having done anything.

So, there are some pluses to this platitude; however, it cannot be considered a summary statement of the Christian life. First, flowers have roots, so that they are not able to move. They have to bloom where they’re planted; and secondly, they die every year. So, flowers have inherent restraints on their place, and they are born, mature, and perish within a single season. In other words, the analogy breaks down, as all analogies do at some point.

People are not restricted, by nature or decree, to one garden (Unless the universe is the “garden”, then you got me). It is true that if you are perpetually waiting for a better place before you “bloom,” then you’ll never bloom, but it is no less true that you can decide to go to a different garden, or if you’re ambitious, plant a new one. Human history began in a single garden, but God told Adam to “fill the earth and subdue it.” He was to gardenize the world. Don’t wait for God to pick you up and take you somewhere else to “bloom.” God may want you to pick up your own things, pack up the moving van, and go plant a garden for him somewhere other than where you are now. In other words, “Bloom where you’re planted,” may very well be short-sighted geographically.

Also, nature restricts flowers to a single growing season, but not people. A flower has to bloom and then start over from scratch with a new bud. It doesn’t “learn” how to grow a better flower the next time around. You, beloved, are not that way at all. Your heavenly father loves you waaaaay more than he loves the flowers of the field. (Mt. 6:25-33) You may have a meager bloom this season, but he is working in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Phillipians 2:13) Since His Spirit abides in you, you will soon be bearing better fruit. In some ways, we’re more like trees than flowers. Whether a tender sapling or an old Ent, he wants us to mature. If you’ve got a shabby bloom this season, then learn from your mistakes, pray for wisdom, and bloom a better one next season.

By way of analogy, we are like flowers, but we are not flowers. We ought to bloom where we’re planted, and we ought to realize that simply blooming where we’re planted could be short-sighted, if we consider who we really are. We are temporal image-bearers of the eternal God. We are members of Christ’s body on earth. He does not want us to bury our talent in the ground and then wait for his return. He wants us to invest it. Take the risk, for any risks are temporal. He gives returns one hundred-fold. You have been made in God’s image and called by his name. So “bloom where you’re planted,” or don’t.

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