I was walking through our vegetable garden one day in early summer, looking at the pretty little plants growing so nicely where Gary and I had placed them. There was the summer squash on the front row, along with some zucchini. The tomatoes were already inside their tomato cages that Gary had put up, and behind them were our okra plants. Cucumbers were on the side of the garden near the tall oak tree. We have a simple garden this year, not as full as it sometimes is, but enough for us and hopefully some to share with others.
Everything was where it should be, growing as we had hoped at this point, with no visible bugs or other problems that I could see. Weeds hadn’t started taking over yet, either, so I felt content as I turned to leave the garden.
But wait. What was this?
I stopped between the tomatoes and okra as I noticed a plant growing in a place where we had not put a seedling. It wasn’t a weed. It looked for all the world like……a cucumber? But what would a cucumber be doing here, when the rest of the cucumbers were all the way over on the other side of the garden?
I hadn’t planted it there. Gary hadn’t planted it there. Hmmmmm…….
I stood looking at it, wondering what to do. There are any number of ways that a cucumber seed from last year ended up under the soil and then growing again this year. I’ll never know for sure.
But what I did know was that I would not have planted that cucumber in the spot where I found it. It was too near the edge of the garden, for one thing. It might get all tangled up in the okra or try to climb the tomato cages. It might want to grow out into the yard where Gary mows. It might not flourish under the sunflowers that were soon to be planted right there where its leaves had sprouted.
Bottom line……that volunteer cucumber was just not at all where I would have put it. I didn’t want it there. I could think of all the reasons mentioned above that I didn’t want it growing where it had sprouted.
It hadn’t been in our garden plan at all. Now here it was, intruding in a place and at a time that I hadn’t intended for it to be. I hated to uproot a growing vegetable plant, however.
“Well, OK,” I thought. “I guess I’ll leave you here while I decide what to do. You’ll probably die anyway and then I won’t have a decision to make after all.”
And with that, I turned and walked out of the garden……my garden that now held a stray cucumber plant. A plant that messed up my plan. One that, honestly, I didn’t want.
I watched that vagabond cucumber plant over the next days…..days that became weeks. I left it where it was, more curious as time went on to see how it would fare. And guess what? My stray cucumber plant grew beautifully! In fact, it grew better than the other cucumbers that I had so carefully planned and planted on the other side of the garden.
It wasn’t long before I saw the first tiny little spiny cucumbers growing under its leaves. I tended it carefully, pulling its curly tendrils away from the tomato cages…..guiding the growing vine out of the yard and back to the garden…..watching another of its vines growing up a tall sunflower stalk.
The fruit of that unwelcome cucumber has been beautiful and sweet. We’ve benefited from it very much, and so have others with whom I’ve shared. I’m so thankful that I didn’t follow my first response and pull the cucumber from the soil! I’m thankful that I stepped back, gave it time, let it grow, and then enjoyed the sweet fruit…..and the lessons it has taught me.
One thing we all know, if we live long enough, is that life is full of surprises. We can be going along just fine, things working out the way we had planned, when BAM!! We hit the proverbial wall. Suddenly, things are NOT going as planned. Now what?
As followers of Christ, we’re certainly not exempt from those detours in life. In fact, God does put situations and events and people into our lives for a purpose that sometimes only He knows. Maybe He’ll share it with us and maybe He won’t. So again, what do we do?
Do we try to fix it? Get rid of it? Ignore it? And if we can’t do any of those, do we argue with God? Get angry? Get bitter?
I mean, admit it, there are things that happen to us that that we just can’t see any reason for. Really, God? I would NOT have done that. I would NOT have put that situation in that place in my life at all. I mean, maybe another time…..another place…..or better yet, not at all!!
So, God, this wasn’t in my plan. I had my life pretty well mapped out, you know. Grow up….college….job….husband….kids…..family…..
I didn’t plan on Aaron falling back into my arms that Sunday afternoon 25 years ago, seizing and bleeding and unconscious. That was most unwelcome. I didn’t plan on being given his further diagnosis of autism 7 years after that. I mean, isn’t Epilepsy enough? I didn’t plan on still being his caregiver when he’s almost 33 years old. Don’t You know about empty nest? How welcome, on many days, THAT would be?
So…..this plant that You have placed in my life? Why did You put it there? I might agree to it in some form…..over there, in another area, to a different degree. Here….just let me decide where it goes and how big it grows, OK? Really, I would never have put it there in the first place…..in case You want to know.
But oh my goodness, what God has taught me over the years from that little unwanted seedling that popped up where I didn’t plan it!
What I’ve learned can be summed up with one verse in one of my very favorite Bible passages. Psalm 18:30:
“But as for God, His way is perfect.”
There you have it. Eight little words that speak incredible volumes about God and His sovereignty.
It doesn’t say that His way is easy…..fun…..pretty…..popular…..understandable.
Or fast. Gary and I are in this life with Aaron for the long haul.
We each have our own situations that God has put, just so, in our lives. As we stand and look at whatever that is, we must choose whether to accept God’s placement in our garden or to spend our life hating it.
But let me tell you, when you accept that God’s way is perfect and you let Him be that Master Gardener in your life, you’re going to one day see fruit. You’re going to see growth in your life that you never thought possible. You’re going to see beautiful fruit like peace, joy, thankfulness, wisdom.
And best of all, that fruit is what you’ll be able to share with others…..especially others who are suffering. Comforting as you have been comforted…..blessing as you have been blessed.
God does know what He’s doing, after all. His way IS perfect, and perfectly placed, in each of our lives.