Lessons from a Cactus Garden

In my office, I have a little, unremarkable, cactus garden. Ten years ago, I received a little package of expired cactus seeds, a remnant from a long-gone Veggie Tales movie promotion. Those are the kinds of bonuses I get in my line of work. Total glamour. Because I like a challenge, I found a 12” x 4” planter, bought some cactus soil (it’s a real thing), dropped the seeds in, and waited to see what would happen.

One at a time, a little cactus would appear. So tiny that they just looked like little fuzzballs on the dirt. But, since they were pretty low-maintenance, needing just a bit of water every once and a while, and a little cactus food (when I remember), I just let them grow, with low expectations to match the low maintenance.

And those cacti? They’ve faithfully grown, year after year. Now there are 12 of them, with the biggest one being about 10” tall, and the smallest one only a couple inches. I’m learning something from them, too:

  • They don’t care about my low expectations. They’re growing anyhow.
  • They are growing despite their circumstances (my low-maintenance can border on neglect sometimes often).
  • They’re reproducing, just by staying rooted and growing. They’re doing what they were designed to do.

The most remarkable thing to me is that, although it is so slow that it is almost imperceptible, they just keep growing. It’s taken ten years for one cactus to grow ten inches, but every so often I take a look at the little planter on my window sill and ta-da! They’ve grown. Or there is a new baby. And their shape, as they grow, is completely different. They grow from funny little prickly things to ribbed, fleshed out mature plants.

Lessons from a Cactus Garden

As they grow, they also get less prickly. The largest cactus has a lot of smooth skin showing, with long barbs curling from its tips, but it’s far less rough than the littler ones.

And so it is with us, isn’t it? There have been stages of my life that have felt like greenhouse growth, but in recent years, I’m tempted to believe there’s no growth at all. But every so often, I’ll realize that, despite circumstances (or because of circumstances), or my expectations, I’ve grown. I’ve changed. Some of my prickly spots are smoother. The barbs are still there (I wish they weren’t) but they’re easier to avoid, unless you really bump me. Over time, I’m being reshaped. My cactus garden is teaching me things, friend. (Warned you this life was total glamour.)

As we stand, growing, just doing what we’re doing, we reproduce, don’t we? Who we are rubs off on those around us, and, if we’re staying rooted in the Word and the Word made flesh, He’s producing and reproducing good fruit in us, through us and around us.

Today, I noticed little crystal-like drops on a couple of my largest cactuses. So pretty. They’re actually what made me take enough notice of them that I started to think about what they’re teaching me. It might be that they’re crying for a drink of water, or that they like winter about as much as I do. What I think though, is that they were part of the beauty of these little plants, saying “Look over here. I’m here, and I’m doing my best, and I’m growing in the midst of it all.”

Friend, you may be in a greenhouse, or you may feel like those poor, neglected cactuses of mine. Wherever you are planted, you can grow. You were made for it. Intentionally designed for it. And unlike my poor cactuses, with their forgetful caretaker, you are not forgotten. The One who designed you provides for you, just as He does for the birds and the grass and the cacti. Sometimes, we just have to choose to receive it so that we can thrive. Grow well, friend.

Lessons from a Cactus Garden