An empty space existed in a corner of my living room. What better to fill an empty space with than a plant, of course! I told my husband that this lonely corner was crying out for a plant to fill it. He rolled his eyes at this, but knowing the joy plants bring his wife, he easily agreed to the purchase.
I had been eying the trendy but forever gorgeous fiddle leaf fig plants. A medium size plant was in our budget, but I had great dreams of growing it into a tall, luscious living room tree. So I did all the googling to learn how to take care of a fiddle leaf fig. I read it can be finicky and harder to grow than most plants. But I was not deterred.
So I headed to the greenhouse, made my choice (there was only one) and gently put my new fiddle leaf fig in the car. At home I placed it in its spot, and then proceeded to check it daily. At first all seemed well, and I was thrilled. But after about a week, I noticed one of it’s beautiful broad leafs turning yellow.
Quickly I googled “fiddle leaf fig leafs turn yellow.” I learned that the leafs may turn yellow if it is not getting enough water or if it is getting too much water. Or it may turn yellow if it is not getting enough sun or if it getting too much sun. In other words, Google, you were no help at all.
To my chagrin, the big leaf continued to turn yellow and then fell off. I waited, trying to make sure it was getting enough, but not too much water, enough sun, but not too much sun. I wondered if I should move it to a different space, but I had read that these plants don’t like to be moved around.
Despite my attentive care, one leaf after another would to turn yellow until it dropped to the floor. “It’s dying!” I mourned.
Then a friend said, “Oh, it’s probably transition stress.”
Yes! Suddenly I felt a deep understanding of my plant (it’s a weird plant lady thing). I know transition stress. I know it well.
When you move from one place to another, literally everything is different, the air, the water, the light, everything. My plant had lost its greenhouse home, and the stress of that took its toll.
When you go through any kind of major change, not just moving your home, there is nearly always a death or loss of something involved. You lose a relationship or a dream or familiarity or competence or assurance. And it hurts.
Even when it’s a positive change that you wanted or asked for, there is often still a flip side of loss. Transition stress still exists. But when it’s an unexpected, undesired change… then the loss can bowl you over.
My husband and I recently experienced an unexpected, undesired change. It’s nothing medical, so physically we’re fine. But suddenly the plan we thought we had, the future that we had been hoping for, simply doesn’t exist any more.
The messages that started playing in my head were default Christianese: “What is God trying to teach you in this?” “Trust that God has his purposes!” “He has a plan for you!”
Do you know what that felt like? It felt like God is the master puppeteer, yanking on the strings of change in order to teach me a lesson. And that feels cruel. I know my God is not cruel, but I could not reconcile that knowledge with the feelings of my heart. So all I could do is wonder, “Why? Why did you let this happen, Lord?”
One night as I lay awake in bed, unable to sleep, I sensed his gentle whisper to me…
“I am not causing this to teach you something. I know your pain and confusion, and I am hurting with you.”
That is my God. That is the voice of the Master Gardener who tends to my soul, understands my every need. He knows. He is present. And he cares so deeply.
Are there lessons for me to learn through this change? Absolutely. Does God have his purposes in store? I am sure he does. Can he redeem and bring good from this? Yes.
But all of those things I do not know or understand when the change hits.
At best, I’ll be able to make more sense of it in hindsight. Or perhaps I’ll know only when I get to the other side.
But either way, what I need to remember when change hits hard, is that my God is not a puppeteer. He is a tender gardener, a good shepherd. He is present with me. He is present with me not in some abstract “God is everywhere” kind of way, but in an intimate, palpable way.
So my fiddle leaf fig? After dropping one leaf after another, I waited, looking daily for more yellow. But days passed, and no yellow. Everything seemed to stay green. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, this fig is going to survive. Then one day, after a careful watering, as I gently wiped down its leaves with a wet cloth, I saw it. A new leaf emerging! Poking out of a dry brown bud that I had almost pulled off, thinking it dead, was the bright green of new life.
So how about you? Anyone else going through change? What are the unhelpful Christianese that play in your head? What are his whispers of truth to you? How can we pray for you? We want to be part of his tender care for each other.
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