By Maureen Pratt | Catholic News Service
Winter rain brought blessed moisture to Southern California, and nature is now thriving. People who carefully protected their gardens, trees and all, during our very harsh drought are benefiting from their foresight and faith.
This lesson from nature is potent, and is framed in my mind by a story I heard from a friend. She had gone on a spring garden tour, moving from house to house to admire the blaze of color and lush green of this year's horticultural beauty.
At one house, however, there was a stark difference.
Last year, a woman had volunteered her husband to plant and nurture a gorgeous garden. She put their house on the tour, expecting it to shine come spring. But come tour time, nothing looked remotely like a showcased garden.
Instead, the husband took groups of people from place to place in backyard and front, describing what "could be" and "would be" or "should be" there, had he followed through on the couple's plans.
I wondered why the couple had decided to go ahead with the tour, since their yard wasn't ready. My friend said that they still had plans to do what they had hoped, and this experience gave them incentive to do the work needed to actually have something to show next year.
How refreshing! And how true!
How often have you or I had great plans, but then time, other commitments or, yes, laziness, get in the way and we have nothing to show for it? How often have we felt guilty about not meeting a goal or were so embarrassed that we couldn't confess our shortcoming to others or dare to try again?
What began as a rather shaggy dog tale of failure quickly became one of courage and inspiration to me. Learn (again). Plan again. Try again. Share the "bad" experience with others so as to turn the next into a good one.
Drought moves into rain. Failure brings achievement. Stagnation brings growth.
The reality of climate cycles can also lead to thoughts of other types of life cycles, especially those of hardship and personal growth, spiritual "dryness" and bountiful rejuvenation of grace and joy. We might feel very low or detached from the spirit within or from our parish community; yes, even after the jubilation of Easter.
But if we carefully nurture our faith all along, grace is bound to bring us up. If we feel we have failed at something we wanted to do or be -- whether a garden or a friend, more loving or giving -- that failure is a valuable instructor for us to know what to do better next time.
Another lesson from God's amazing natural world is also valuable: Although the degree of beauty and abundance might vary from year to year, the "bones" of growth and potential do not vanish. A seed maintains its form and function no matter what is going on around it.
So, although we might experience waves of emotions that hold us back at any given point -- embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, anger -- these are fleeting. Who we are and how loved we are in God's eyes never changes. The talents we have, the potential within each of us -- these and many other blessings also never, ever vanish.
Now that the garden tour is over, I like to imagine the couple hard at work. Tilling soil. Selecting plants. Weeding and hoeing and working. Doing all of the things today that enable them to achieve their goal next season.
I expect theirs will be a magnificent garden. Wouldn't you love to see it?
Pratt's website is www.maureenpratt.com.