gardening, spiritual life

Winners and losers

“In a time of destruction, create something.” Maxine Hong Kingston, Chinese-American author

The tally is in. The intense highs and lows of last winter have taken out one climbing rose, one butterfly bush, three lavenders, one hosta and one lemon balm. Most surprising was the lemon balm, which is, oddly enough, a mint even though it smells like Pledge. It’s the kind of plant I previously suspected could survive a missile strike.

So it goes with gardens. No matter how much you enjoy an individual plant — I will miss you, lavender! — it will not last forever. This sad reminder initially made me want to replace certain specimens — Oh, my heart, sweet lavender! — with something indestructible. Purple coneflowers? Plastic?

After more thought, however, I’m leaning toward ignoring most of the losses, which bring some space to a crowded cottage garden. And, toward replacing the lavender and hoping for the best. Lavender is what it is, after all, a marvelous, reasonably worry-free plant. I love its smell. I love its spiky blooms. I love it even when it’s bristling with bees.

Any gardener will understand my decision. We, as a group, embody hope. Other sub-cultures, perhaps, will not.

This weekend, my husband and I read a New York Times article on “grinding,” a new twist between extreme body art and comic-strip super powers. Adherents do things like implant magnets, LED lights or computer chips under their skin in an attempt to “biohack” life and, presumably, death.

My initial mid-life-mom reaction to horn-like magnet bumps rising from one guy’s scalp and a glowing disc with an on/off switch protruding from another guy’s hand was revulsion. Why?

The more I thought about it, however, I really think this “grinding” is just a new manifestation of a more widespread absence of hope, specifically hope in God. Many people, “grinder” or not, are obsessed with finding some sure thing, some way of “winning.”

It drives fitness and nutrition; the never-ending pursuit of degrees from big-name, big-sticker-price colleges; career/fame madness; and a variety of medical pursuits that are more socially acceptable biohacks than adding literal luminosity. We want to win. We want to live. Yet, just like the lavender, it is only a matter of time until we die.

How much happier we would be if we could only face this certainty with hope instead of futile efforts. God has a way of defeating death. God has a way that we frail, frail humans can win out over the most beastly conditions. It does not involve magnets in the fingertips, simply nails in one perfect man’s hands and feet.

Grisly, yes. Sin carries an ugly cost. Yet, redemption carries a hope that spills from the eternal into right here, right now. It’s true. We can plant some lavender, enjoy some chocolate and live — in hope.


6 thoughts on “Winners and losers”

  1. Nora, you never cease to amaze me.

    You had me so caught up in planting lavender which I dearly love, to the frailty of life and our perfect Saviour who died for all humanity.

    Life is but a vapor…here for only a short time.


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