Returning from Russia brought many happy moments, and some sad ones, too. My poor garden wasn’t doing so well when I left, and the eleven days of neglect while I was gone produced weeds in abundance and dry, brittle twigs where flowers once were. I shook my head as I gazed on the dead petunias. As beautiful as petunias are, they aren’t as hearty as they look. Their deep jewel tones and delicate blossoms delight my eyes in the Spring, and I plant them in abundance. But they don’t stay that way, and I’m hopelessly deceived into thinking that they are stronger than they really are. These dear flowers need pruning, watering and weeding more than any flower in my garden. More than that, they need protection from the rabbits who live in the bushes and find their blossoms to be a delicious treat. I don’t always consider these things when I plant petunias. I am enchanted with their beauty alone and assume they will grow and remain alluring simply because that’s what I expect of them. I don’t consider all the work it will take to keep them beautiful and thriving.
And such is the way with people. God gives us a gentle lesson with the petunia. Are we too eager to fill our lives with the beauty of others yet so blind that we neglect the care and keeping of them? I think we certainly believe that people need right relationships with God, but we fail to realize that phileo love is just as important to God as agape love. God created us for one another for accountability, fellowship, companionship, intercession and love so that we can be in authentic, life-changing relationships with one another. He delightfully shines through us to affect each other in the most incredible and penetrating ways. And like the petunias in my garden, it requires a lot of work, but the returning beauty of the blossom resonates a life filled with love.
This is a great lesson for me as I strive to fulfill the role of friend and mentor in a way which pleases God most so that we can all grow to know and love Him more. By caring well for others I believe we can change the world, one petunia at a time.