The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves

The garden is running late this year. Cold nights (making for cold soil) have resulted in pea plants that sprouted on schedule, grew to a fixed point, and then sputtered and stalled out, stunted. The prophet Isaiah had things to say about who is in charge of growth, both in the garden and in the human heart:

“For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”   (Isaiah 61:11 NKJV)

Here, Isaiah is addressing a people who had been appointed to be a kingdom of priests, a reality which will be realized in its fullest sense when Christ establishes his Kingdom, but, for now, the role and the right spills over onto present day believers, the Church.

Gardening is a hint, a reasonable guess, directed at biblical mysteries around growth, fruition, and results. In real time, here on the ground, we are called to bear witness to the bringing forth and the springing forth, the budding and the blossoming of New Covenant righteousness in the rocky soil of human nature and in the weedy fields of inborn willfulness. If our purpose here on God’s green Earth is to “put down roots” and “put up leaf,”* it follows, then, that God is with us in all our sprouting–and even in all our wilting.

Celebrating God’s Presence and God’s Work

The miracle of Emmanuel, of God with us, shows up at every garden and at every graveside. He is present for both victory and disappointment, and, therefore, our calling is clear:  We are to celebrate the miracle of his presence.

There are no blinding Damascus Road beacons in my garden, no whiplash conversions from darkness to light. There is, instead, a quiet watering of work already begun, a gentle placement of stakes that support growth and encourage healthy formation.

Ten days with a hundred Christian teens bent on summer ministry can be a clarifying experience for a gardener who frequently questions the significance of her calling to teach and train believers. It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality. The turn around from shallow faith and a safely-distant following of Christ is also a significant victory, and it is worth celebrating because God is present in this work.

Emmanuel is a horizon-filling name, and it is only in his power that the beloved of God answer the call to be saints. As the roots go down and the leaves grow up, they spring forth for his glory.

May the beauty of Emmanuel change your day and your life,

Michele (1)


Image Credit: The lovely image of my garden featuring Isaiah 61 was a special gift from my friend Abby (who is also a special gift). She writes and shares her giftedness with graphic design at Little Birdie Blessings.

*This delightful phrase is from Maxine Kumin’s To Make a Prairie, p. 7.

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62 thoughts on “The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves”

  1. Michele, your words are so illuminating to me, especially theses quotes, “There is, instead, a quiet watering of work already begun, a gentle placement of stakes that support growth and encourage healthy formation.” And “Emmanuel is a horizon-filling name, and it is only in his power that the beloved of God answer the call to be saints. As the roots go down and the leaves grow up, they spring forth for his glory.” Many blessings to you friend ❤️

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  2. Amen! And I have to say that this “hypocrisy and apathy” is a big challenge! If more believers would truly be what they say they are, it would help clear all that confusion. But since the roots are going down, the leaves would surely grow up again! Thanks so much for this reminder, Michele. Many blessings to you!

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    1. Yes, the gap between saying and being and doing is a cavern in our following lives. May God help us to bring our confessional theology and our practical theology into the same space!

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  3. I agree with all the specific phrases loved by the previous comments. Writing on our blog using this same metaphor for marriage has been such an illuminating process. God Loves to use nature to reflect who He is and how He cares for us.
    There’s an old hymn I think of whenever I’m working in my flower garden. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses…and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own…”
    Great post, Michele! Have a blessed weekend—and I hope your peas begin to thrive. 😊

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  4. Beautifully said Michele. I really like the words Beth mentioned. I think of my grandchildren when you say a …”quiet watering of work already begun”…. and wow – “Emmanuel is a horizon-filling name”. Indeed He is. How magnificent. Thank you for this reflection. ~ Abby

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  5. Michele,
    Sounds like your ministry opportunity with the teens was “fruitful” (in keeping with the garden theme). As with all forms of ministry and gardening, we can till the soil, fertilize, plant, water, and prune, but ultimately it is God and the power of the Holy Spirit that makes faith and fruit grow. I have found that comfortable and sometimes apathetic Americans have a harder time seeing their need for a Savior than those living in Third World countries or those living with severe trials in their lives. Lovely post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  6. I love how God teaches us in so many different ways, many are soft and subtle so if we are not looking we miss them completely. What a blessing that you didn’t miss this in your garden of peas as well as in the lives of the youth. Many Thanks 8)

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  7. Just these sentences are enough for a whole blog post! “The miracle of Emmanuel, of God with us, shows up at every garden and at every graveside. He is present for both victory and disappointment, and, therefore, our calling is clear: We are to celebrate the miracle of his presence.”
    Thanks, Michele.

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  8. “There are no blinding Damascus Road beacons in my garden,” either Michele. Instead, just like you, I have experienced a quiet watering of work already begun (decades ago!), a gentle placement of stakes that have supported growth and encouraged healthy formation day after day, year after year. Such perfect imagery for our patient Gardener and how he causes us to flourish as we depend on Him. Well done, Michele!

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  9. […] The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves. Lots of good stuff in this one. “It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality.” True for us adults, too. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So true your words about teens…all need the comfort of God, even those just facing life and new experiences as well as those more challenged and having more difficulties because of outside influences. They were blessed to have the time you shared with them, I’m sure. Have a pleasant week.

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  11. Beautiful words and beautiful reminder of God’s presence. I just bought a home with a garden and I’m looking forward to quiet moments digging and weeding and planning and thinking.

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  12. This is a post after my own heart. My garden quietly teaches me God’s lessons every season. Isn’t it beautiful how God’s creations speaks?

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  13. Oh, Michele, I LOVE TEENS! I love where you write about the same grace being needed for their different struggles— just like us! And this quote, “The miracle of Emmanuel, of God with us, shows up at every garden and at every graveside. He is present for both victory and disappointment, and, therefore, our calling is clear: We are to celebrate the miracle of his presence.” is beautiful!

    You have such a way of expressing yourself, such a way with words. Such a gift! Thank you for using it in this way.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  14. I am sure the teens you worked with felt the blessings of Emmanuel through you, Michele. Even the teens who are stunted in their growth from cold nights, cold relationships, and a cold faith can blossom and bear fruit when they are gently sprinkled with some living water. Loved this well-written post, as always!

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