I’ve made no secret of my lack of gardening skills. They are limited to plants that don’t require much shade or water, like my hardy tropical hibiscus which thrives on my lack of remembering its need for water.
When we moved into our house, the fence lining one side of the backyard was home to three Rose of Sharon plants put there by the previous owners. They looked great. Tall, flowering, low-maintenance. They stayed nice looking for about five years of our living there, and then things started changing. One day while the cat and I were out on our daily walking of the backyard perimeter, I gave one of the bushes a good look and couldn’t figure out why the leaves looked so weird. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the branches featured two different types of leaves. I kept looking at the dumb branches trying to wrap my brain around the mystery of how one branch could sustain two types of leaves. Not only that, but up from the center of this beautiful flowering plant stood a tall stock of something that didn’t belong. It reached higher than the Rose of Sharon, and it’s foundational stalks stood surer and stronger than that of the original plant.
Frankly, I was annoyed. It was mind-boggling and beyond my comprehension. So I got out the Big Guns- that is, my mother, and asked her what she thought was the cause of two different kinds of leaves on one branch. She reached out, turned the leaves around and said, “Looks like accidental grafting.” Somehow the seeds or roots of the intruding plant got mixed into those of the original plant causing the merger of the two in a mystery of coexistence.
Two weeks ago I talked about God’s abundant love that covers any and every situation we find ourselves in, a love so fierce that it never finds itself bending to disappointment. It is looking through this lens of God that we can finally rest in who He is and who we are in Him.
With that in mind, we continued on addressing our need for a right perspective on God and what His idea is about the abundant life. A life that mirrors His is the only way of surviving this life with any amount of joy and faithfulness.
I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the subject of how we have come to the place to even begin talking about this life in abundance, and that is this idea of grafting. Romans 11:17-24 says this:
“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, ’Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree?”
As God’s chosen people, we know the Jews rejected Christ and His message of salvation, and as a result, salvation was offered to the Gentiles.It’s a mixed bag of feelings, this thankfulness I feel for their rejection opening the door for my adoption and regret at those who walked away from their status as chosen. For whatever reason, the great plan of the ages was to die for all of us, whether through the initial choosing of a people or through adoption, grafting.
As a college student I attended a Messianic Jewish service on Friday nights at Moody Church. It was my lifelong dream to be Jewish, to be of the same bloodline of the One who created all of this, to be able to trace back my ancestry to the baby in the manger. (Instead, I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Gentile with German and Irish blood flowing through my veins).
If you’ve ever been around a Messianic Jew, that is, a Jewish person who understands who they are and have embraced Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, it will change your life. The blood that pumps through their veins is significant more so because of their spiritual acceptance of Christ than because of their physical heritage. Their lives are marked by a thankfulness rooted deep in their belief in what God has done for them. It’s a thankfulness that ignites contentment and satisfaction and abundant living.
In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she talks about what caused rebellion in the Garden, that is, the sin of ingratitude. Abundant living is more about what God has done for us than what we believe He hasn’t. Our adoption as His sons came at great cost to Him. I ask you what I ask myself all the time: is that enough?
I have a feeling that the shoot growing up through my original plant is either a weed with delusions of grandeur or a small tree. Either way, because of it’s grafting into the original plant, the source of its life, it has taken off. The “intruder” if you will, saw the opportunity for life and took it. Much of our experience in this life is really up to us. We have the opportunity to grow in the life that God has offered if we will only spend less time concentrating on what we believe is missing and more time being grateful for what is.