I recently bought an air plant at Wegmans because I felt it represented my life; God was asking me to grow in a hard place. This plant is set in a small piece of granite. What amazed me about this plant is that it thrives in a seemingly hard place; like the old adage says, “Bloom where you are planted.”
At this time one of my kids was struggling with an ongoing mysterious health issue. When my kids struggle, I struggle. I know that God orders my steps with his loving hand, yet this hardship planted me in a difficult place. Could I thrive in this place, not just survive?
This situation brought to mind the book Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. In this allegory, the main character, Much-Afraid, is taking a journey to the High Places. Her journey is hampered by fear, ongoing confrontations with her enemies, and her misshapen feet which impede her ability to walk with ease. When she reaches the High Places, she recounts the lessons learned along the way to the Chief Shepherd. The first lesson learned by Much-Afraid is to “accept with joy all that God allows to happen to me on the way and everything to which the path leads me.”
On her journey to the High Places, Much-Afraid discovers a flower blossoming in a crag in the rock. She wonders how this beautiful bloom inhabits such a seemingly inhospitable place. Discussing this thought with the flower, the bloom replies that the Chief Shepherd planted her there, and although it may not be the location she desired, she accepted the Shepherd’s plan, calling herself “Acceptance-with-Joy.” Despite hard conditions, the flower had everything it needed to thrive. Here, Much-Afraid is able to see her situation mirrored in the experiences of the flower; she herself is journeying through rough terrain with perilous circumstances. Despite this, Much-Afraid can see the Shepherd’s care for her and recognizes that His plan has purpose, and as she trusts Him she can accept His plan with joy.
Similarly, I am on a journey purposefully created for me by my Shepherd. He has planned this journey with specific intent: to get me to the High Places, His kingdom of love. My Lord lovingly establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9) to help me grow in my knowledge and dependence upon Him, for His glory. This journey will not go around difficulties, but through them. Along the journey, there have been harsh headwinds of doubt, the blur of tears, and confrontations with exhaustion. My steps are not always nimble. Yet, going through rough places challenges me to recognize my weaknesses and inability to travel alone in my own strength.
Like Much-Afraid, this struggle enables me to recognize my frailty and to call upon my Shepherd to help me. Experiencing His provision along this perilous journey strengthens my faith. I can see that God is true to His promise to strengthen, help, and uphold me (Isaiah 41:10). Stretching my awareness of His implicit trustworthiness enables me to grow in acceptance with joy. Like my air plant, I can grow in a hard place, not just surviving but thriving. My Good Shepherd is my sufficiency; He will provide. Indeed, I can bloom when I am planted by the loving hand of my Chief Shepherd.