Standing at the sink, I fill up a spray bottle for my Sunday evening routine: watering the few plants I attempt to keep alive - four succulents, a small potted cypress tree, and a Christmas cactus.
I move through the house, checking on each one as I offer it a little moisture and care. The two succulents seem to be doing well in the flat white pot surrounded by miniature models of creatures from Eric Carle’s books. The whimsical potted birthday present has survived close to a year and brings me joy each time I walk by.
Next, I move on to the cypress tree. He needs to be repotted to continue growing. I add that task to my mental to do list but am thrilled to see he remains green another Sunday.
I make my way to the Christmas cactus and notice the leaves are no longer plump and full. They’ve begun to look withered, wrinkled and limp. I furrow my brow and spend extra time spraying water all through the plant, hoping it is just thirsty, but knowing it was just watered a week ago.
For the next week, I watch it closely. Still the green stems wither, continuing to fall limp around the side of the pot. After some research I learn the culprit is likely one of three things: over watering causing root rot, under watering, or the root ball was so tangled and hard the water isn’t seeping in to nourish the plant.
Moving the plant out into the backyard to work on it under the warm spring sun, I investigate. Carefully pulling the cactus from the ceramic white pot, I see the bottom of the container is dry. The roots show no evidence of rot. However, the trouble is evident. The root ball is solid and stiff, completely dry. As instructed by the internet powers that be, I fill a large bowl with water and submerge the entire root ball. I hold it under the water for just a few minutes and feel it begin to break apart as the water seeps deep. I pull it from the water, balance it in one hand and pour the muddy water through a strainer to catch the soil, then nestle the newly soaked soil and roots back into the pot. I give it a moment to rest before bringing it back into the house.
Change comes quick. By afternoon, several stems stand taller and by the next morning only a few hang limp over the side. Fresh water. Fully submerged. The plant needs a deep drink to soak into the hardness of its roots.
“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was incredulous; why would a Jewish man speak to her at the well of her ancestors? Her heart was likely hard. Rejected and outcast, she was thirsty for
acceptance and truth. It is only verses later Jesus offers her Living Water, not for her thirsty body, but for her parched soul.
John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’”
Change came quick for her, too. After talking with Jesus, “the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.’” Her spirit refreshed, she called others to drink of Christ’s water.
Brokenhearted and disappointed I sit, quiet, within the hubbub of people all around. Something I’d greatly anticipated had fallen through earlier in the week. For weeks, my heart had soared with possibility, with dreams of what might be. Now, rejection set heavy and hard within my chest. All around me, friends chatter. I whisper silent prayers for renewal but they drip all around my hurt, not seeping into the roots of my heart.
This evening, my body feels rigid. My muscles taunt and my mind wanders as the speaker talks. After the meeting, I plaster on a smile, visit with friends and walk to my car to head home. A puddle, freshly made by a just-passed thunderstorm, reflects the lights of the parking lot. I step around it and notice the lingering rain drops on my car.
Later, I murmur another prayer as I climb into bed, “Lord, let your spirit fall like rain on my hurting heart.”
Days passed. But soon, as I stood in my backyard with the sun warming my back, as I pushed the roots of the plant deep into the pail of water, I watched in awe. Dry, tan dirt deepened to a rich dark chocolate. Dust that blew into the air when I pulled the parched plant from its container was now heavy with moisture. What once felt like rock, now pliable and dripping with water.
The warmth of the spring sun whispered a gentle reminder: the Lord’s mercies are new each morning. Like the wilted cactus, like the rejected woman at the well, so should I drink in His love and faithfulness.
May I remember this moment; may I give the Lord my hard, parched heart. May I instead be like dark, rich soil, fertilized by Him – the Living Water.
A Breath Prayer for a Hardened Heart:
Breathe In: You, O Lord, are my Living Water.
Breathe Out: May I drink deeply of your grace