What Do You Need From Me?
Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring rain—
The Lord who makes the storm clouds;
And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.
I have a dreadful hidden talent: the ability to absolutely obliterate “un-kill-able,” “low-maintenance,” “even YOU can’t mess this up” plants. The hardy Black-eyed Susans that grow in abundance on the side of the highway stood no chance when planted in my garden. In the “easy-to-grow” DIY greenhouse, only 1/3 of the seeds sprouted and even they died within a week. Friends told me that succulents can survive pretty much anything … except being under my care, apparently. The aloe plant lasted less than a month and the dracaena drowned and then dried to a crisp after I left it out on the patio during a few days of summer rain.
Recently I decided to give it one more go at plant caretaking. I loaded up my shopping cart with healthy, vibrant plants that my research told me were both low-maintenance and cat-friendly. The flora came home with me to fill windowsills and bookshelves. I gave every plant a name: Esther, Margaret, Enoch, Fiona, Walter, Betty, Russell, Charlotte, Peter, and Gertrude thinking that naming my future victims would at least make me feel a bit more guilt when they died. Perhaps having names would even save them from my neglect. Some mornings, I even talk to them because I read somewhere that would make them happy.
I’ve always loved babies and dogs/cats. These beings that rely on my care can at least communicate what it is they need. The cat licking my face at 2 a.m. is demanding that I fill the empty food bowl, the dog whining at the door needs to relieve himself outside, and the toddler rubbing her eyes and yawning is in desperate need of a nap. Why can’t it be that easy with my plants? Less than two weeks after coming to my home, one of the plants started looking sad. A quick Google search on why my plant’s leaves are drooping tells me that it is either getting too much water or not enough water. This one seems destined for the compost bin and I’ve started questioning once again why I even bother trying to keep plants. I need them to tell me exactly what they need. Am I the problem or is it the plants?
It’s frustrating to care sometimes, isn’t it? You can’t treat all plants the same. What works for one might actually kill another. If we’re on the receiving end of care, it can be frustrating if we don’t get what we need or feel misunderstood or neglected. Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer for how to live with each other in God’s kin-dom. Like with my plants, what works for one person may hurt another. Some of us prefer daily check-ins while the same treatment would make someone else feel smothered. Some of us love the language of sarcasm while so many others need genuine, straightforward communication. Some of us feel disconnected if we haven’t seen someone for a few days while some of us can go months without speaking and pick up right where we left off. Most days, it feels like we’re torn between wanting to care for someone and wanting to be cared for ourselves. Both ends can leave us tired, lonely, and irritated.
I’m left wondering how we might make it easier for each other to receive love and care and to advocate for how they best feel part of a community. How might we express our needs to one another? How much patience and listening will it require for us to notice the needs of others? Does it start with validating that each person has different experiences and, therefore, different ways of giving and receiving care? Does it start with open communication about what works for us and what doesn’t? What do you need to survive these days? Beyond that, what will help you thrive in this new world that is being created?
This week, I invite you to think about what it is that you need and what it is you have to give to others. Unlike my plants, people cannot just be dumped in a compost bin because we neglect them. As the church, we are called to care for one another and to ask for God’s help in discerning how we can best do so. In this season, let’s ask God for what we need and pray that God will help us to be what someone else needs as well.