A couple of years ago, my parents decided to give me a few of their plants to take care of. I wasn’t really a plant person, but I wanted to appreciate their gesture and so accepted (rather begrudgingly) the responsibility of caring for them.
Eventually, I became more interested and invested in caring for these plants. I learned to diligently de-weed them and tried to untangle the branches of the Sampaguita tree designed to look like an arch. I even purchased a small gardening kit so I had the tools for pruning, digging, and raking! Although several plants came and went, it was a joy to care for them and to watch them bloom!
Ruminating on these—along with my own experiences in job-hunting, and learning to be a good steward—showed me how the Bible uses plants and seasons to illustrate our life in God, as can be seen in Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 and John 15:1–8.
Here are some of the things I have learned from reflecting on these passages and my experience with plants:
Our lives go through different seasons
As the Preacher observed in Ecclesiastes 3, there are seasons for every purpose under Heaven. And as we inevitably go through these seasons, the most sobering aspect is how these times have a start and an end date.
Two years ago, the pandemic happened, and most of the world faced lockdowns, empty streets, deserted offices, and cabin fever from being stuck at home. What made it bearable was learning to accept this as our new reality—a new season. We learned to adapt to working and schooling from home and tried to separate the productive areas from the restful spots within their homes.
Many months and variants later, we’ve reached the endemic phase. Restrictions were lifted, and we’re slowly working our way back to offices, schools, and malls, and picking up again the activities we used to enjoy before the pandemic.
Whatever season we may be in, we must learn to accept the beginnings and ends of these times, and know that there’s a purpose for everything under Heaven.
There will always be periods of painful pruning and discipline
When I first got my Sampaguita tree, I watered it regularly just to maintain its current foliage. After a few weeks, however, I noticed it was not growing well as the plant had never been pruned. So, I ordered a small gardening kit and, with great sadness, cut off all the dried-up branches so the nutrients could go into the right areas. I also had to take out weeds that were popping out of the soil and cover the topsoil with round river stones to protect it from parasites.
While it took months to rehabilitate this tree, the efforts were worth it. Pretty soon, new branches, leaves, and flowers bloomed. The fresh foliage brought new life to the Sampaguita tree.
I started caring for this plant at a time when I was secure and doing okay in my previous job. But after some time I resigned, and since we were in the middle of a pandemic, I struggled to find work. Being jobless during a season of uncertainty was troubling.
However, that season allowed me to focus on other aspects of my life. The week after my last day at work, my parents’ business was hard hit by COVID-19, with nearly all their staff infected and sent to quarantine in facilities for weeks. As my parents were senior citizens and my youngest brother was in the middle of his college thesis, none of them could run the business—except me.
The Lord made me realise that this was the time for helping my family , and so I wholeheartedly accepted this assignment, going out to buy PPEs, supplements, and delivering documents to and from our house to the business. When my grandmother passed away a few months later, I continued to help my parents with these physical errands while they held the fort at home.
The most painful rebuke I learned during this time was how I had forgotten to serve my family. As an adult, it’s easy to get focused on our career and other plans while forgetting our first ministry: our families. And so God used this season of joblessness to prune me in this area.
Good habits will always yield good fruit in the right season
My fruitless career season lasted a little over three months. Although I had resolved to focus on serving my family at that time, it was still hard to watch my monthly expenses whittle away at my savings. I did get to work on a couple of projects with the help of a brother in Christ, but none of these were getting me anywhere near the career I was hoping for.
What kept me sane during those times were the good habits I managed to form. Every week I did daily devotions and continued sowing the seeds—I updated my CV, looked for job openings on social media and online job websites. On the side, I exercised, watered my plants, led my discipleship group, and played a couple of video games to pass the time.
While repetitive and boring, these habits, especially my daily devotion, helped me connect with God more , love others better, and stay attuned to His perfect timing.
Six months ago, the leaves on my Sampaguita plant became discoloured, and its once flowering branches dried up despite my consistent watering and tending. I thought of pruning them again, but then decided to just wait since it was technically the “off” season.
Miraculously, in early March, new leaves, branches, and flowers started blooming again. While I did not change the good habit of watering it often, God made me realise it was simply a matter of seasons changing. Despite not seeing any results, continued good habits will eventually yield good results…if we do not give up.
In my third month of unemployment, a company finally responded to my application. It took around a month to get through the interviews and test, but I was hired, offered a permanent role after 3 months, and promoted the month after—the first time this had happened in my 11-year career!
Just because God is in charge of the seasons, that doesn’t mean we should just sit back and wait like couch potatoes. As Galatians 6:9 says we must continue doing the good work He has entrusted to us and in due time—God’s time—we will reap the good results. Even as this verse refers to our eternal life, the truth principle behind sowing and reaping applies to our earthly life as well.
Stewarding the bountiful, good season is just as vital
Every morning, I am greeted with the sweet aroma of freshly bloomed flowers on my Sampaguita tree. All the discoloured leaves have fallen off, replaced by deep shades of verdant foliage. Three small trunks have sprouted as well, signalling new trees that will develop in the future.
My other plants have also grown new branches and leaves. One snake plant grew so many branches that the pot holding it cracked, so we’re now in the process of finding larger pots to hold them.
Meanwhile, on the work front, I’ve been blessed with new responsibilities and a pay raise.
Given these bountiful blessings with my plants and career, I am careful to not become complacent. I still water my plants every other day so the new growths get enough nutrients and I can enjoy its rewards. With the income I receive, I give a portion to the church, set aside a disposable amount for my expenses, and save the rest. I make sure to examine my motives and remind myself that I am always working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).In our season of plenty, let’s continue to faithfully steward and cultivate what we have.
Let’s complete the circle by ending with Ecclesiastes 3:1. As the Teacher aptly said, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” While life does have its seasons or moments, when we erroneously believe these are our moments, it leads to impatience, disobedience, grumbling, and discontentment. We end up wishing for things to happen our way, when the sobering Truth is that God is the Master of the seasons. Only through His time does He unveil His plan for us. As we wait, let us not grow weary in doing good. Rather, let us number our days right by doing good to the fullest, including cultivating the time He has entrusted to us good stewards.