"Don't be miserly, give them a proper watering!"
This was what I felt God was saying to me as I eked out a dribble of water on each plant I was trying to salvage recently.
We were going through a hot dry spell, and although it was officially Autumn, someone forgot to tell Summer; the weather was set to be the longest hot dry spell we had had in months.
Living on rain water as we do, it meant we were running to the end of our reserves. Although we are better off than millions of others in the world, as we can afford to buy water and can easily get it trucked in, it still grates on me a little. We don't live in a particularly dry area and I would like to be able to just use what we are given.
In all this, the garden was starting to look pretty sad. While I tend to be a pretty tough gardener - you don't survive in my garden if you need too much watering - there were plants I just didn't want to lose, so I had been watering a little more regularly.
I am aware that my minimalist watering can be quite ineffective. In some areas of our garden, the water just runs off the top; the soil is so dry that it takes a lot more water to get the water to soak in. As I reflected on these observations, the gentle nudge came from God, telling me to stop being stingy and water them properly, to stop worrying about the expense of buying water to refresh my garden. It just seemed so wasteful and extravagant to me - the plants are just for pleasure, just to look good. They can't be that important, can they?
And then we had a day that was really hot. It got to 40 degrees (C) on my way home. I stopped at the supermarket, and there were a few promising looking clouds around, but nothing that significant. The weather report had said there was a chance of some rain around the hills in the evening, and I had asked God if we could have some of that please, because my garden really needed it.
I wasn't in the supermarket long, but when I came out, it was raining quite heavily. It felt so good, even though it was still very hot, and there was that wonderful smell that comes with rain after a hot dry spell, along with the sense of the soul being watered as much as the land.
As I drove the fifteen minutes to home, up into the hills, the temperature dropped from 40 down to 32, then by the time I got to the end of the suburbs, it was down to 23. The rain was heavy enough to start to run off the road. I was only about 5 kilometres from home. Surely we were getting some of this. My daughter rang to find out when I would be home and told me that it was all blue skies and hot and home. No sign of any rain.
I felt pretty disappointed. We did eventually get a few smatterings, but barely enough to register, let alone revive my garden. What was going on? What was God trying to say to me in this? Why didn't He answer my prayer the way I wanted?
So I had a chat with Him. Why did we miss out? I know it is not the end of the world, it is not that big a deal, but it is easy for Him to give abundantly where He pleases.
And suddenly it got a little more challenging.
I was reminded of a few things. One was a verse: "Give and it will be given to you...For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38). Along with this was the oft recited story of the person walking in the desert, nearly dead of thirst, who finally came across an old pump. At the pump was a jug of water and a note. It said that you had to use the water that was there to prime the pump, and then it would produce as much sweet, fresh water as you wanted. There was also a reminder to leave a jug of water for the next person. One moral to this story is that you have to relinquish what you have in your hand sometimes before you can get what you really need, but it is a step of faith.
The third was the story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (1Kings 17). There was a severe drought, and she had enough food left for her and her son to have their last meal. Elijah challenged her to share, with a promise that God would provide for her until the rains came again. Very like the pump story: are you prepared to give away what you have on the promise alone of more?
Jesus observed and commended the widow who gave two small coins in the temple, stating that her giving was worth more than those who give from their abundance. While she gave from a position of poverty, not a position of plenty, she gave from a position of faith that her needs would be supplied, even as she gave the little she had.
I have been learning that God's generosity goes way beyond the sensible or rational, way beyond what I think I deserve or is enough. He gives and keeps on giving, even when we don't show gratitude or appreciation, even when we squander what is given. When we look at the example of the father toward the son who wasted his inheritance in the story of the Prodigal Son, we see a picture of Father God who pours out His abundance regardless of our response.
He is prodigal in His generosity.
If I am to reflect Him, His glory and goodness, I need to be generous in the same way.
The question is, when I don't feel like I have much, do I hold back, waiting until I have plenty before I give generously (whether that be money, food, goods, or time!), or do I give in trust that God is generous, that He will continue to give me more as I need? Do I trust in what I have already been provided with, or do I trust in the further provision, in the Provider? Am I holding on so tightly to what I have that don't have spare hands to receive the next installment?
Am I as generous with my little as I am with my abundance?