I got my sweet friend an orchid for her birthday last year. It was lovely and in bloom and spoke to me from inside the store. As I had hoped - she loved it. I felt that giving her flowers that would die days later wouldn’t be as special as a plant that would hopefully bloom year after year. And my use of the word “hopefully” wasn’t any reflection on her orchid-growing capability.
It was on mine.
I have what people like to call a “green thumb.” I’ve been growing Jade for my entire marriage and keep Aloe vera in my kitchen windowsill for accidental baking-burns. Last year, I challenged myself by propagating a curly willow tree from a branch that was in my Mother’s Day bouquet and was ecstatic when it took! I’ve had several gardens and the children and I tried out porch tomatoes last summer. Basically, I can grow things.
Just not orchids.
They are sensitive and finicky and need an extreme amount of tender, loving care - things that I consider myself to possess. I stare at them in awe at floral shops and they glare back at me - reminding me that I kill them. It’s truly a love/hate relationship.
The very first orchid I received was a wedding present and it died a week later. We had gotten married the last day of March and while we were on our honeymoon in southern Florida, it was snowing back home in Iowa. We had turned the heat down in our house - just warm enough to keep the water in the pipes from freezing and bursting. That orchid didn’t stand a chance!
There have been other orchid casualties: Over-watering. Under-watering. Too much light. Not enough light. All ending up the same way…dead.
Last fall, I decided to try once more. A few weeks after I had given my friend her birthday orchid, I was in the grocery store where I had noticed some on clearance. Justifying that I wouldn’t be out too much money once I unintentionally killed it, I went ahead with the $4.99 purchase. I put it in our bedroom as I figured I would get the most enjoyment from its dying beauty while getting ready in the mornings.
A couple of weeks went by and all of the flowers expectedly dropped. A couple more weeks went by and the spike dried up. I braced myself for the leaves to start turning the wrong color and was confused when they didn’t. Something strange was happening - it was growing!
I had been studying it closely for months and noted that the leaves were a healthy green, the roots were nice and plump and there was a start of the tiniest new leaf. It was hardly noticeable, but it was a leaf nonetheless. I all but screamed as I ran through the house to find my husband to tell him that my orchid was growing!
Just recently, that same sweet friend informed me that her orchid wasn’t only alive, but blooming! I was thrilled. Seeing her smile and talk about it made my heart happy. I quickly shared that I was re-writing the story of my orchid-killing days as I had one that was growing a new leaf. We shared a moment of rejoicing for each other.
And then the very next day, my rejoicing for her wavered…
My friend had sent me a picture of her orchid and she wasn’t exaggerating on the beauty of those blooms! There were six gorgeous, pink flowers in full bloom with another 12 buds on deck. I received the picture while I was in my bedroom and happened to look over at my orchid. Having a picture to compare her orchid to mine left me suddenly feeling impatient. And jealous.
My leaf waned in the light of her blooms.
I was tempted to change my regime - switching up the watering process with the “ice-cube trick” and moving my orchid to a windowsill to give it more light. In my scurry, the Lord interrupted me with His gentle ways. I sensed Him say, “What I’m doing in you, I’m doing in you! It’s not any less important, valuable, or beautiful.”
He reminded me that I had faithfully given my orchid a 1/4 c of warm water on Sunday mornings for the entire fall and winter. That I had offered it indirect sunlight and had rotated the pot every couple of weeks. That I had wiped the leaves with a damp paper towel when I dusted. And that I had even whispered to it - begging it to grow!
When the flowers fell and the spike dried up, I truly thought it was the beginning of the end. When I was mistaken, I held my breath. When a new leaf appeared and continued to grow, I was elated. Eleven years and many attempts later, I had finally kept an orchid alive!
So why did my friend’s blooming orchid make my new leaf feel inadequate?
Did the beauty of her flowers truly diminish the blessing of my leaf?
Only in that brief moment when I let it.
When we allow someone else’s blessing, breakthrough, or victory diminish ours, we still have some growing to do! It’s important to remember that everyone grows at a different pace and everyone’s growth is in a different place. The growth in my friend’s orchid is just as beautiful and exciting as the growth in mine and a sign of maturity is being able to rejoice for the flower and for the leaf.
The Bible teaches us in Romans 12:15 to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” When we let our own insecurities and sin-nature (e.g., pride, jealousy, or envy) taint that instruction, we tend to rejoice for those who mourn, and mourn for those who rejoice. Let’s all be challenged to grow in this area!
I asked the Lord to forgive my impatience and jealousy and called my friend to thank her for the role she unknowingly played in another teaching moment from the Lord.
I’ve come to realize that at every single juncture of the growth process, there is cause for rejoicing:
When a plant is merely a seed, it possesses purpose.
When the roots grow, so does its character.
When the stalk and leaves appear, it displays its maturation.
When the buds form, so does hope.
When the flowers bloom, it reveals its destiny.
I believe that if I stay the course and remain faithful with my orchid-care, I just might be able to see it reach its full potential. Until then, I intend on growing in purpose, character, maturation, hope, and destiny.
And so sweet friend, please continue to send me pictures of your beautiful, blooming orchid. I commit to rejoice for your blooms - year after year - without wavering.