I used to believe that succulents were universally the easiest plant to grow. Just house them on a sunny shelf and let their hardy leaves reach inexorably outward. Before our second son Noah's birth, Jusje purchased a slew of succulents for me to place in artistic terrariums around the nursery. I was so excited to see their green spikes and tendrils add life to Noah's space but my joy was sadly VERY short lived. Within a week, half of the succulents dried up. I watered, sunbathed, and cajoled them. In two more weeks another third of the survivors rotted. Panicked now, I read blogs and botany text books. I consulted green-thumbed friends and local nurseries. I tried shade, direct sun, sprinkled water, sandy soil, and even succulent fertilizer. Within a month, all of my succulents were dead. Now their shriveled fossils litter three jars across our window by the kitchen sink as the sole reminder of my attempt at growing cacti.
At the same time, my 3-year old orchids (all of which were once year-round bloomers), contracted a mildew of some kind and died. Jude took this moment to throw every single potted plant off the deck, shattering all of them. It has been a dark time for gardening at the Smith Home...
All of this effort, all of this death reminds me of sin's curse. We work, we fight the land for produce, and still the weeds return, the sun burns and shrivels, and the water drowns. Our labor is never easy. The universe is hardwired now to buck and bite and destroy.
But it's not just the outside warring. For me, the inside is far more brutal. I can never just be. God's command to "Be still and know that I Am God,"(Psalm 46:10) is no small feat.
For my heart, stillness births restlessness and discontentment. I find life always too much or not enough. I'm too: emotional, volatile, demanding, anxious, stressed, tired, and awkward.
I'm not: spiritual, mature, intelligent, skinny, pretty, or interesting enough. My habitual self-discontentment has historically (up to 2.5 years ago) been blamed on my environment: If I just lost 10 pounds, lived in Portland, had a master's degree, had a husband, had no debt and a large savings account, worked with the Peace Corps, then ... Then I would finally be content or satisfied? Please.
I am 27 and (thank God!) I can finally spot this lie for the juvenile race in futility that it is. Seeking fulfillment from my environment is just a glamorous "Chasing after the wind" (Eccles. 1:17). Solomon got this tendency of my heart spot on:
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:8, 9, 11, 14 ESV)
I know this is true but somehow my heart still desires futility---God's curse on mankind, nature, and even my succulents.
And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. (Ecclesiastes 1:13 ESV)
And Romans reiterates this sentiment even more clearly:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:20-28 ESV)
I love Romans! Wow, what love that the God of all creation would make my heart forever dissatisfied so that I might long for something more, that is, HIM. What love that he has lifted "the veil" (2 Cor. 4:3) and revealed his beauty, extending inexhaustible mercy to me day after day (Eph. 1:4-6)! God sparked in me a "repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth," causing me to "come to [my] senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. "(2 Timothy 2:25, 26 ESV)
So yes, I daily feel the pull of dissatisfaction and feel tempted to wish to be more or be less. I still mentally (and sometimes physically) battle an eating disorder that has stubbornly tormented me for 8 years. But thanks be to God that such failings serve as a reminder to me of just how desperate my case is and how perfectly sufficient His grace is.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 ESV)