By Avery Walker
Orchids have always been one of my favorite plants. I had them in my wedding bouquet, often give and receive them on special occasions, and enviously admire the way they seem to thrive in everyone’s house except my own. But my love for the sometimes temperamental beauties comes with a deep, dark secret. For years I was throwing away orchid plants when the blooms fell off, thinking I had failed in caring for them. My beautiful blooms shriveled and fell, followed by the leaves, reducing my once-prized plant to seemingly lifeless stalks. More recently than I would like to admit, I learned that these discarded plants were not lifeless at all–they were simply going through a time of new growth. If I had been patient, I might have seen a tiny sprout peeking up from beneath the mulch and moss. If I had been hopeful, I would have continued watering and fertilizing the plant, giving it needed nutrients and care that would have likely sped up the process for regrowth. If I had been diligent, I might have read more than the plastic insert that came with the plant in order to better care for my orchid.
Life can feel like an ugly, lifeless plant sometimes. Thinking back on my own life, there have been times when I abandoned hope prematurely, certain I had failed and that the only option was to throw that experience in the trash and start over. Sometimes it was a workout that was not producing fast enough results or an attempt to build healthy eating habits that felt overwhelming in their unfamiliarity. Sometimes it was a trivial thing like a hobby I could not seem to master or a piece of literature everyone raved about that just did not hold my attention. Other times the decision to give up came with heartache, like a friendship falling by the wayside because the hurdles seemed too high to overcome, or a dream flickering out because I convinced myself it had become impossible or that I had missed my window of opportunity. I cannot help but wonder what might have happened if I had hung on to hope a little longer in some of these situations. Would something good have blossomed? Or was it simply time to start over with a fresh stalk?
In a world of instant gratification and constant comparison to others, it is easy to focus on the falling flowers and it becomes all too easy to miss a tiny sprout of something good working its way out of the thick, dark soil. Sometimes there is no sprout to be seen, and we are simply going through a time of waiting. King Solomon, one of the most successful people who ever lived on this earth, still struggled with feelings of failure and a desire to give up when things became difficult. But he learned that even when we don’t know what is coming next, even when we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, God has a beautiful plan for every life (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
A beautiful orchid that I received as a Christmas gift was the first to break the pattern of prematurely discarded plants. It was dormant for so long I forgot what color the blossoms were. Nearly a year later, delicate purple flowers bloomed from a fresh stalk, and have been blooming for months now. All this plant needed was some tender care, patience, and a little hope.
Maybe you think you failed. Maybe you cannot see growth yet and things look dark and dreary. Please do not give up. Take good care of yourself anyway. Drink lots of water. Get enough sunshine. And most importantly, do not give up faith–because your time to bloom is coming. And you will be beautiful.