Today it’s ninety-five degrees and dry in Marietta, Georgia. It’s been hot, the ground parched all summer. The lakes are still down, watering allowed only three days a week, and my hydrangea is so thirsty. Two years ago for Mother’s Day my daughter gave me the pretty deciduous shrub with two pink clusters on it in a small pot wrapped in green foil paper. I nourished it, made sure it had the right mix of shade and sun. Then at the end of the season I planted it near the house where it would get light and shadows. The next year it sprouted five blue blossoms. I later learned that was because the acidic soil had changed the color from pink to blue. One of my neighbors said I could bring back the pink profusion by putting nails in the ground beside my foliage. I decided to keep the blue. When my daughter came to visit she said, “Mom, what happened to the plant I gave you? Did it die? Why did you buy a blue one?”
It took most of the day to convince her that she looked out the window at the same gift she’d given me a year earlier. This spring my hydrangea spread out at least three feet. When the weatherman predicted a late frost at 10:30 p.m., one night I rushed out, covered my prize with a sheet. Sure enough the danger passed and buds sprang up all over the hydrangea. But when they tried to bloom excessive heat with no water drained the life out of them. Instead of forming showy blue clusters the florets turned brownish white. Day after day I watched the flower wilt, saw tiny hints of blue attempt to push their way into the malnourished vegetation. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. On the days I was banned from using public water I bought bottled water from the grocery, poured it on my flower until it turned bright blue.
There are times when I feel as washed out as the hydrangea looked. That’s usually when I’m in a spiritual drought. Some days I’m so busy trying to solve a problem my way that I forget to call on God. When I’m not feeling well, I often don’t have the energy or inclination to attend church or worship God. Even though these two circumstances are wrong on my part, they are inadvertent. I don’t make a conscious decision to drift from God. It just happens because I’m pre-occupied with something else. Then, there’s the spiritual drought that creeps up on me, when everything goes so well I don’t think I need God. However, once it dawns on me that I’ve neglected my spiritual life, like a pendulum I swing back to the good habits, going to church more regularly, praying more thoughtfully, studying God’s word more thoroughly. Then I remember to count my blessings.
When I stop to think of all the times God has answered prayers, sometimes when I didn’t even ask, but just wanted something in my heart, all the times he’s protected me, all the narrow misses I’ve had when I’ve almost been hit by a car in traffic, or left an area to later hear something bad happened there. The list goes on and on. If I bring those incidents to mind I can’t help but believe God cares for me, be thankful for his love, and praise him.
But the worse spiritual drought happens when I know I need God’s help, say my prayers, but don’t see the answer I expect. I assume God has abandoned me, which gives me a horrible, empty feeling. I know I have to get relief from the famine, want to get out of it desperately, but how? I often remind myself of “Footprints” the wonderful poem written by an anonymous author who thought God wasn’t with him during a difficult time because he saw only one set of footprints in the sand. The poem ends by saying that’s when God carried him. Even though I’m moved by the beautiful acknowledgement, glad for that person, it doesn’t help me.
I’m as wilted, as lifeless as the thirsty hydrangea with no way to refresh my soul. Yet God is omniscient while my vision is limited like a person driving through thick fog. There are some hills I simply can’t see over, some curves I can’t possibly see around ever in this life. God hears my prayers, answers them even though I may not recognize his response. Hope comes from Matthew 17: 20: “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And from Romans 8: 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” While the evil in this world interferes with my spiritual well being God can miraculously bring good out of bad.
Eventually through constant prayer by divine intervention I escape from the worst of all spiritual droughts. Just like the hydrangea I am nourished, can bloom again. “…Everyone who drinks this water…” (well water) “…will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13)