This summer, Mary spent a good bit of time gardening. I had to move a lot of dirt when I built the addition, s0 I created three new raised bed gardens marked out by concrete blocks behind the house. They get a lot more sunshine than our old garden, so they just exploded in green. Her cherry tomatoes produced more than we could eat.
She also grew butternut squash. The vines didn’t much care about the boundaries of the beds and spilled over into the yard. One of the squash flowers bloomed right over the square of one of the cinder blocks, and the squash started growing inside. Before we noticed it, the squash grew to the point that it was impossible to get it out of the square without destroying it.
The battle between the squash and the concrete block began. Would the squash die inside the concrete prison? Or would life triumph over lifeless stone? I started to see little cracks on two sides of the concrete block like the squash was beginning to break it open. It was a life and death drama in slow motion.
Rooting for life.
Every couple of days, I checked on the squash to see how it was doing. I didn’t realize it at first, but I really wanted that squash to win. I could see that it was still connected to the vine, still growing. But the growth was imperceptible. I couldn’t see that the life pulsing into the squash slowly increased the pressure on the concrete.
One night, I felt frustrated about something going on in my life. It doesn’t really matter what it was, but it had gotten me down. Lying in bed, I told my wife, “That squash is going to die. I just know it.” She responded with some encouraging words before we went to bed.
The next day, she went out to the garden with the shovel. The squash plants were beginning to die back after spending their energy producing a lovely crop. She noticed a third crack on the cinder block, and pulled gently on one side. The block fell apart. The squash had won.
It’s not the most beautiful of squash. It’s not perfectly square, but rather a squash’s interpretation of what a square might be. It’s different from the other squash, which are round and nobbled. It’s the only squash I’ve ever seen that’s broken out of prison.
Grow in place
This little drama reminded me of the virtue of hope. There are areas in my life where I feel walled in by my circumstances. God put certain responsibilities and duties on my plate that just aren’t going anywhere. Some of these are fun, some are more challenging. And some feel like a six-inch by six-inch opening in a concrete block.
These constraints are not a punishment. They are a part of God’s work in my life. He put walls in certain places to bless me and shape my character. And this is where hope comes in. Hope allows me to grow where God put me. Sometimes growth might break me free of the constraints. But other times, it just conforms me to the shape of the constraints in a way that pleases God.
The key for me is to stay connected to the vine. The life I have is not my own, but flows from my relationship with Jesus, the True Vine. He’s the source of my life, my growth, the reason I can survive and grow in whatever circumstances God chooses.
Changed by the block
That broken cinder block reminds me of a certain empty tomb. The cinderblock wasn’t able to contain the squash any more than the tomb was able to contain Life. Life busted out.
Hope tells me that I can do the same. My circumstances may shape me in the way that the cinder block gave the squash some right angles. But hope enables me to see that my circumstances are given to me by a loving Father, that they aren’t the end in themselves. They’re doing something good for me. To me.
God wants to shape me, mold me. He does that through the providential ordering of the circumstances of my life. Hope allows me to surrender and stay connected to the True Vine. To continue to grow even when I feel bound up and unable to move.
Hope holds on tightly to the one who will set me free when the time is right. I’ll know it’s time when I hear the concrete cracking.
Jesus snatched me out of the darkness and saved me from complete madness. If you want to hear more of that story, check out Demoniac, now available on Amazon.