Blooms from our camellia bush fill a favorite teacup.
Looking for tips on growing camellias, I couldn't help but think about spiritual applications for the information I found. Because just as camellias offer a refreshing burst of color in the stark winter landscape, as Christians we stand out as lights in a dark world. Here are a few reminders to help us bloom even when cold winds blow.
- Camellias prefer neutral or acidic soil, but they can thrive in slimy soil. As humans we may prefer easy circumstances, but often we experience the most spiritual growth during difficult times. Romans 5:3-5 explains, "[W]e also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
- Camellias will outgrow their allotted space unless the plants are kept in check. They will flower better with regular pruning. We too benefit from our Father's pruning, ridding us of evil characteristics like pride, arrogance and greed. Psalm 66:10 says, "For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined." Cynthia Guy, one of this week's ladies lectureship speakers, talked about the process of refining silver. She said a refiner was asked how he knew when the silver was ready. His answer, as he watched the silver respond to the heat of the flame: "When I can see my image in it."
- Deadheading as petals fade helps the plant avoid wasting energy setting seed. Too often we waste energy dwelling in pits of worry, doubt or unforgiveness. Spiritual deadheading will help us invest our energy in growing spiritually. When we confess our weaknesses to God and repent, He is faithful to help us. And with an upward focus, we can climb. Philippians 3:13-14 challenges us, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
- Most important, camellias need shade to thrive. Despite their hearty tolerance for difficult soil and winter weather, camellias need a sheltered environment to flourish. This is the key for us as Christians too. How can we survive even during difficult times, grow even in a harsh environment, and bloom even in a cold winter? We can thrive because we live in the shelter of our Father's hand. The psalmist praises, "From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings. Selah" (61:2-4).