by Kathy Penrod
A few months ago, a dear friend gave me a beautiful plant arrangement. The basket that held this plant was filled with a variety of leaves. The leaves, rich and full of life, were deep green, some boasted red veins, and others had red highlights mixed into the green. It was as if a tropical paradise was carefully planted into this basket and it brought me so much joy when I would look at it.
At first, I watered it carefully so it would grow and thrive. I was happy when a new shoot would erupt from the middle of the plant. I was sure to place this plant in a spot where the sun could reach it. And, for a while, this plant flourished with my care.
Then, I got lazy and forgetful.
I would go days without watering it. Or sometimes I would even overwater it only to find that the soil was gathering mold from not being able to dry out. The plant outgrew the basket but I didn’t want to take the effort to find a new planter for it. I refused to take the easy steps to care for this plant. And my plant died.
Our faith is like taking care of a plant.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ refers to faith as a mustard seed. (Matt 13:31-32) Mustard seeds are tiny (about 1-2 millimeters) and yet, with proper care, can grow to a full, tall plant (some up to 15 feet in height). Even though it starts small, it can become something quite significant. (Cool mustard seed facts here)
When we feel a particle of belief, even in the smallest form, it is like a mustard seed. Sometimes, small is all we can do… maybe just believing that there is something out in the universe greater than ourselves. But, if we will take care of that belief, as if it were a plant that a dear friend had given us, it can grow into something beautiful. Alma, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, taught this principle beautifully. (Alma 32:17-43)
To keep my plant healthy, I needed to regularly attend to it. This may have involved trimming branches, giving it the right amount of water and making sure it was where the sun could reach it.
Likewise, to care for our faith, we must root out parts of our behavior that would drive away the Spirit of God. We need to do things that sustain our faith. Just like watering & fertilizing a plant regularly, we need to pray and read the scriptures with regularity. As we do this, our faith will begin to grow and flourish, as would a plant under similar care. Sometimes, it might be necessary to transfer our plant into better soil with more room for growth. Or, in other words, it might be necessary to make changes in our life so our faith can thrive. And, just like change is easier for a healthy plant, making necessary changes in our lives is much easier to do when our faith is healthy.
Very most important for the plant is to place it where the sun can reach it. This allows the plant to grow, to draw nourishment from the sun and strength from the light.
We are no different in our faith.
We must, for it is crucial, place ourselves where the Son can reach us. By so doing, we allow ourselves to grow, to feel God’s spirit (thus nourishing us) and, through the power of the Atonement, we gain strength from the Light of the World.
But it all has to start somewhere. For me, it started very small. Sometimes, all I could do was WANT to believe in something. As I lived the commandments, persisted in scripture study and prayer (even when I wasn’t sure what I believed) and continued to put myself in situations where God could touch my heart, my small belief began to grow.
As much as I loved this gift from my friend, my faith is a more precious gift. It is more crucial to my happiness. It is my testimony that by allowing our faith to grow, no matter how small it begins, it can flourish and become strong through the light the Supreme Gardener offers.