Have you ever had a garden with perennials (plants that “come back” each year)? If so, then you know that a perennial plant’s life cycle revolves around the seasons — and that when winter comes, the plant enters a period of dormancy. It sheds its leaves and retreats into a kind of hibernation to protect itself against the cold. This season of inactivity is key to the plant’s later survival (revival) in springtime. Some would even call this dormancy a time of rest.
But even though the plant’s gone dormant for a season, the gardener doesn’t stop nurturing its growth. Instead, they continue to care for it in preparation of what’s coming. During the cold winter, the gardener will break up the ground surrounding the dormant plant, just so the soil doesn’t “permanently harden”. Then, when the first new buds appear but aren’t yet in full bloom, the gardener feeds and waters it. And sometimes, the gardener has to submit the plant to the painful process of having its branches pruned so that it can produce more healthy fruit later.
As believers, it can often feel like our spiritual life goes through “dormant” seasons because we can’t see new growth taking place. We might retreat into a hibernation of our own in our walk with Christ, feeling distant and isolated from Him. Sometimes all we can see is the long winter that lies ahead of us, and where we were previously blooming with joy and enthusiasm in our relationship with the Lord, our spiritual growth now feels stunted. But God – the Gardener – knows the process that’s taking place under the surface. He understands that faith is a growing process. And so, he continues to pour into His beloved plants – you and me, His children – providing us with the nourishment of His Word and the Holy Spirit and patiently waiting for us to respond again in our coming “spiritual springtime”. And yes, sometimes that means pruning us too, even when it’s painful, because He wants us to bloom and bear more healthy fruit in the end.
See, even as the plant can’t see beyond the dormant season, the Gardener is aware of what lies ahead. While the plant’s busy just trying to survive the winter, the Gardener’s delighting in the knowledge of what’s coming in the spring. And when the growing season begins and the plant bursts forth in full bloom and the Gardener sees the result of all of His patient love and care, He stands back, looks it up and down with great pride and joy, and declares that springtime has arrived once more.