A Basil Bush

Quote: God who gives the wound gives the salve.
~~Miguel de Cervantes

Today I bought a small pot of basil.  Unfortunately, it was the only pot on the shelf and a terrible specimen.  Years ago I might have been fooled into thinking it beautiful, but an unexpected garden lesson taught me the truth.

Twenty years ago I grabbed my first packet of basil seed in an urgent wild determination to have an herb garden.  Never mind that my cooking was the bare-bones, onion-is-good-in-everything, style.  Never mind that I didn’t recognize the names of half the packages in my hand, including basil.  I would learn.

My first wonder at planting those packets of seeds was in how very teeny, tiny and almost non-existent they were.  They showed up like heavy dust at the bottom of the packet.  My garden book taught me a trick that helped to spread them out over several square feet:  mix them into a tablespoon of sand and toss!

Once planted, I made their potential lives impossible, if not miraculous.  I raked them into the soil too vigorously and showered them generously with mulch.  Buried under too much soil, they had no hope of growing tall enough to reach sunshine.  The birds didn’t mind.  I don’t know how, but bird eyes and noses can find a miniscule basil seed under half an inch of soil.

Imagine my shouts of joy two weeks later, as here and there, I found lucky herb plant sprouts around the garden.  One stubborn basil sprout grew tall and proud at the corner post closest to the path.  I loved to check its progress upward every morning.  What joy I felt as it reached eight inches tall!

And what despair I knew the next day when I discovered it broken off just above the bottom leaves!  It was more than I could bear.  I quit looking to the corner of the garden in the mornings.

Weeks later, on a leisurely day where I could poke and prod under and around plants checking for ripe squash and tomatoes I came upon a lovely small bush in the corner where my broken basil had been.  It bushed out in three large branches close to the ground in brilliant emerald green, and it smelled delicious.  It smelled Italian!  Basil!!

I broke off the ends of the stems and ran into the house to find a recipe for my first herb harvest.  Over the weeks, as my cooking improved, we continued to break off the ends of the basil limbs for new recipes.  Undeterred, the basil bush grew and grew.  Visitors to our garden commented, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful basil bush!”

Succeeding gardens taught me the secret of my basil plant.  It must be pruned early and continuously.  At every juncture where a sprig of basil is harvested, two or more new branches will grow.

I’ve also learned this is God’s secret with me.  While I would like to have my life grow untamed and free from pain, God knows the power of pruning.  Carefully, he pinches off a life option here, but he opens two doors for me there.  Firmly, he breaks off my prideful branches and waits for humility to grow in their place.  And the more I turn to His Word, the more he teaches me about the pruning I need and come to expect.

The basil plant I bought yesterday is tall and stringy, eight inches tall in one strong stem.  But I know how to fix it.  I know it has the makings of a beautiful bush.

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Scripture:  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.  Pro 3:11-12

Reflection:  Think back to a major disappointment of your childhood and think of two blessings from it that have enriched your life.  Tell these to a close friend.

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Meditations:  In the Garden
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