Short Story: The Gardener
I slowly opened my eyes and yawned, admiring the vibrant orange sky just past the trees. I took a deep breath and noticed a new scent. And there she was. She had been planted there beside me. I was captivated by her fragrance, the whiteness of her petals. She was leaning slightly in my direction, but then maybe that’s how she had been planted. Taking a chance, I began to lean too. The closer we became, the more her scent captivated me. Suddenly she touched me. Did she do that on purpose or was it the wind? I stood there amazed by the softness of her petals and the tickling of her leaves…
And then the prick. I was shocked at first. Why plant her beside me but leave the thorns? I felt her pull back, and I sighed softly. I was saddened to realize that she had felt my thorns too. Eventually, she cautiously leaned back into me and we seemed to have found a comfortable place where the thorns weren't in the way. We stayed there for a while and then the wind blew (for real, this time). She moved and I felt another prick. This time I pulled away sharply and stood upright again.
A hand. The gardener. He leaned over to enjoy my fragrance as he always does, smiling at me. I smiled back (in a flowery sort of way) as he began to caress my petals. “Excuse me”, I blurted. He looked at me and grinned. “Yes?”
“The rose here you planted beside me… Was that for me?”
“You are for each other, actually”, he said with a wink.
I thought for a moment. “Can I have a different one? This one has thorns.”
“All roses have thorns, little one”, he said. “You have thorns too.”
“Yes, I know”, I said despondently. “Can’t you remove them?”
“I am removing them.” And then he carefully touched one of my thorns and gently broke it off. The sting was sharp and intense. “You have two fewer now than you had last week. I can’t remove them all at once, you know. It would be too much for you.”
The pain was still shooting down my stem. “But then how am I supposed to enjoy the rose you planted next to me?”
“You will have to learn where your thorns are, I think. And learn where hers are. Being near each other takes practice. But I wouldn’t have placed you so close together if it wasn’t worth the effort. You’ll see.”
He smiled and I watched him slide over to the next rose. He gently broke off one of her thorns as well. He stood up, knees dirty. As he moved on, she leaned toward me again. “This will be difficult”, I muttered. She smiled at me. Her beautiful flowery smile made my petals quiver. And then I thought to myself, “But it’ll be worth it.”
A Note From Mike
Obviously relationships are very complicated and there are lots of very good reasons why certain dating relationships didn't work. Finding the right person for you can take a while. But as a general observation, it seems like some people expect people they're in relationship with to walk on water and others are happy that you have two legs and walk upright. It seems to be very difficult for people in the dating world to have reasonable and balanced expectations (either of the relationship itself or of those sitting across the table from them). Those of us with no standards at all often find ourselves neglected, abused, cheated, and otherwise mistreated, and then we wonder what's wrong with the other gender. Those of us who demand perfection turn and run at the first sign of disagreement or the first glimpse of a chink in the armor. Consequently, we spend years in the dating scene or have walked away completely, venting regularly about where all the good people are. To date successfully without creating unnecessary pain for ourselves while still giving ourselves the best possible shot at meeting the right person, I believe there must be a balance between grace and sound judgment.
The bottom line is that we all have "thorns." In fact, we each have a variety of thorns, likely more than we care to think about. If we're looking for someone who is completely devoid of them then our only hope is to date blindfolded with earplugs in our ears. In the end, relationships with other thorn bearers can be incredibly fulfilling and deeply satisfying (assuming we have the grace to get over the occasional bumps in the road). If both individuals are willing to do the work to slowly remove their thorns one by one and work through issues when they come up, that's a relationship worth having. Mutual growth is a beautiful thing. I'm convinced that we have a "Gardener" who wants to work with us to help remove the thorns over time. If we lean into Him relationally, He will help us build relationships characterized by acceptance, safety, commitment... and peace. I think that's ultimately what most of us are striving for, if we're honest with ourselves.