I was walking along a beach in Spain, struggling with my thoughts, worrying about my future. My mood was as overcast as the slate sky above. There I was, 25 years old, a short-term volunteer at an international Bible school, wondering what I was going to do with my life.
I had prayed often — sometimes in faith, and other times just a desperate plea of, “Lord, help; show me what to do.” I was praying then as I walked. I knew that being where I was had been an answer to prayer. Just a couple of months before, God had provided the opportunity for me quite unexpectedly.
But it seems like no matter where I am, what I am doing, or how purposeful I feel, I always begin to wonder, “What next?”
Just Be Still
I stopped walking and sat down on a wall facing the sea. I needed a second to soak up the sound of the waves breaking and still myself to think. My thoughts were questioning, mixed with a shovelful of worry, and of course, a grain of self-pity. As I lowered my eyes from the vast view of the sea meeting the sky at the horizon, I saw, just past where my feet were dangling, a small blue flower growing out of the sand.
At that moment, an unbidden but Spirit-whispered thought came into my head: Grow where you’re planted.
My previously selfish thoughts suddenly shifted to this little flower. It grew in a harsh environment, its fragile roots holding onto shifting sand instead of sturdy soil, buffeted by strong sea winds, always threatened by strong waves or the ever-changing ground. Yet that was where the wind had carried the seed and planted it, and the seed didn’t question this. It just grew and bloomed.
And it was beautiful.
God used that little flower to teach me an important lesson on that gray afternoon. Wherever I am at the moment, I need to grow. I do not need to be concerned about the environment that I am in, wishing for a better one, or hoping someone will come along and replant me somewhere better. The Lord is the Gardener. He plants each one of us in a place for a purpose. That might not be our permanent location, but we are still expected to grow, bloom and bear fruit, making the most of what we have. We might be planted in a garden of rich, healthy soil or in a dry, sandy bank, but we were planted with the same purpose.
When the storms of life and hardships knock us over, the Gardener’s gentle hand props us up again. When we are spiritually dry or feeling burned out, He showers us with His love and mercy through His Spirit and gives us enough to keep going.
Sometimes we might feel that others around us are abundantly showered on while we get only a few precious drops. But the Gardener knows just how much we need to grow best. And though we may feel ignored by the world or even trampled on, the Lord says, “A bruised reed he will not break.”
Our Gardener uses the times of trial to prune us so we can bear more fruit to spread seeds into the world, His great garden. He will do the hardest work; our purpose is to grow where the Gardener has planted us.
I picked the little blue flower and put it in my journal to remind myself of the lesson God taught me.
Time has passed since that day on the beach. I can’t say I have stopped worrying completely or that I never question God about my future. But I know I need to grow using whatever is in my environment and circumstances, whether it be volunteering or working in my job, to become the woman God wants me to be — that I might bear fruit for His kingdom.
What a difference shifting my focus made that day. Instead of taking in the broad view of the horizon with all the possibilities, I started paying close attention to one small flower and every tiny detail of its existence. My purpose, my mission — a tiny seed struggling to sprout and needing some encouragement — might be right next door, might be right now.
And through my own growth, I know I will have more to give to others, and the Son of God will smile.