As a lover of plants, I often find myself apologizing to my wilty friends after forgetting to water them. They look sad and droopy, and almost seem to call out for help. Or maybe they are glaring at me with disgust as they recall not too long ago that the same thing happened. We see the same issue when we look outdoors at the grass, the farm fields, and our gardens when there is a drought. The brown colors and droopy plants make us long for rain.
As we think of our dry, weary plants, let us recall Psalm 63. Psalm 63:2, proclaims this very phenomenon described above. “Oh God, you are my God-it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.” The images described above of droopy leaves, brown color, and even our own sadness at the sites of drought all come to mind in this Psalm. Like the sad houseplants which we forgot to water, so too does our soul wilt and cry out for the water of life.
The beautiful analogies in the natural world to the spiritual world are prolific. And how necessary they are for our souls. We so easily apologize to our houseplants for our forgetfulness, but often neglect to see that the state of our soul looks much the same way as the dried out dirt and droopy leaves in our pots. When we are stressed, our first inclination is to look to food, alcohol, cursing, or a cruise vacation to alleviate our problems. When we need a break from a long day we grab the chips and put our feet up on the coffee table for some Netflix.
When we forget to water our souls with the Word of God and with prayer, our souls quickly assume the state of our forgotten houseplants and the farm fields suffering from drought. And like our houseplants that will die from no water, so too will the state of our souls become more and more corrupted by this world. The cracks will show and the damage worsens.
Maybe if we hung a sign at our houseplants to remind us that we should be watering our souls as well would we be better at nourishing our souls as well (or as poorly) as the plants. God has provided us with a physical world. A world that so often interacts with and reflects our souls. How wonderful this is and how important it is that we realize this and utilize the world that we live in to care for our souls. For so many of us, we describe ourselves as “visual people,” meaning that we need to see something to understand it. King David in this Psalm from thousands of years ago is telling us this as well.
Perhaps watering our plants is the perfect time to offer prayers of thanks to God or prayers of penance for neglecting to water our souls. When we pray for rain for our gardens and fields we can also add that God will nourish and water our souls so that our souls will grow and blossom. It can be hard to take action when there are so many improvements that we can make in our spiritual life. We so often hear how insufficient of a job we are doing and how we need to do more, more, more but we reply that we don’t have enough time, time, time. But here we can see another lesson from the plants. The plants do not need one good soaking or flooding to make them happy. To grow the best, our house plants, farm fields, and gardens (of course there are exceptions) need moderate amounts of water throughout their days. So too, in our daily lives, we should strive to consistently and regularly take time to water our parched souls. And we can do this in the daily tasks that we are already doing. Watering our plants, driving to work, and brushing our teeth are opportunities for time with God. And we can certainly consider whether sitting on the couch and watching two hours of Netflix while we mindlessly eat the potato chips is really the best use of our time and whether we are causing drought in our souls by doing this day after day.
The final message here, though is one of hope. Like the guilt and remorse I feel for my dry plants, so too can we apply to our souls. Bringing ourselves back again and again to our spiritual health is essential. We can rejoice when we remember to pray, when we take time to read the scriptures, and when we decide to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation instead of turning on Netflix. We live out the story of the Prodigal Son each day of our lives sometimes. And each moment that we turn to the health of our souls is one that both we and our Lord celebrate.