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Bloom Where You’re Planted

Post by Gary Chapman

Imagine I have a $1 million bill. Now if you know anything about US currency, you know my bill is a fake. After all, the largest currency amount currently printed by the US Treasury is $500.

But, for now, let’s pretend the bill is real. And some of us are particularly adept at pretending. In 2004, a woman in Covington, Georgia, tried to pay a $1,675 tab at Walmart using a bogus $1 million bill. Then in 2012, a man in Lexington, North Carolina, attempted the same thing while purchasing a vacuum cleaner and microwave at his own local Walmart. Honestly, if you were trying to pass a fake $1 million bill, wouldn’t you shoot a little higher than home appliances?!

But since we’re just pretending, I want to be especially generous and give you my $1 million dollar bill. Will you take it off my hands? What if the bill were wadded into a ball?  Would you still want it? Imagine I found the bill in a mud puddle, that it still has mud on it, you can see tire treads where cars have run over it, and the bill is still a little soggy. Will you take it? What if I ripped the bill in half? In each case, my guess is you’d be more than happy to take my $1 million bill. Wadded up, dirty and soggy, or spliced together with tape, it’s still worth $1 million.

Making this offer to you is just a facetious way of highlighting our value to God. No matter where we’ve been or where we are now, you and I are of even more value to our Creator than the most pristine $1 million bill you could imagine. That’s an important truth for those like me who are getting along in years.

Which brings us to the title of this article, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Some would imagine that phrase is found in Scripture, maybe in Proverbs. Though it’s not found in the Bible, the sentiment of “bloom where you’re planted” certainly is found there. For example, we read in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Most agree, though, that the origin of the statement goes back to the 16th century Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales. He is first credited with the statement based on his quote, “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

To better grasp the message of “bloom where you’re planted,” let’s break down the phrase starting with the second part: where you’re planted. That seems to imply something happening to us—something beyond our control. Something or someone has planted us. The reality is we didn’t simply decide to show up on this planet. We were planted at this particular time and in this particular place by a God who has a purpose in mind for us.

Granted that purpose may not be so apparent to us and may even change some as we enter new seasons of life. Years ago, Janie’s mom had a shamrock in her kitchen window.  In time, its blooms fell off, the leaves beginning to droop and turn brown.  So, thinking the shamrock was dead, she threw it on a pile of dirt in the backyard.

She then bought a small cactus to replace the shamrock. The pot containing the cactus needed some dirt, so she took some from the pile out in the yard, and placed the cactus in the same kitchen window. Much to her surprise, green shoots began to sprout around her cactus. As they grew, it was obvious that this was the shamrock she had thrown away. It thrived and made a very unusual looking plant as it grew around the cactus. What seemed to no longer have a purpose continued to flourish in God’s hand, just in a different way.

It’s a lesson I’m having to relearn at this stage of retirement. My health and energy aren’t what they used to be. I don’t move as well or as quickly as I did at one time. But as hard as it is for me to grasp, I’m still of value and purpose to God. If I’m willing, I’m still useful.

Others have discovered the same.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her mid-60s when her Little House on the Prairie books were first published.
  • Colonel Sanders took his first Social Security check and began shopping his Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.
  • John Glenn rode the space shuttle at age 77
  • Gladys Burrill ran a Marathon in Honolulu at age 92
  • Caleb and Moses were old men when they made their marks

There’s still life and purpose, even when we may assume we’re past our prime.

Which brings us to bloom. If I recall my English grammar, there’s an understood “you” in front of bloom.

You bloom. God will do his part.

You bloom. God will do his part, but our attitude and our willingness can be difference-makers, too. Those we do have control over.

When I think of bloom, I think of Scott. Scott was a young man in a youth group I led while at Whitehaven Baptist Church in Memphis. He was the prototypical athlete, good at everything he tried. It was just assumed he would play someday for his favorite team, the Auburn Tigers. But when he was 17, Scott fell head first from his water skis into a lake bottom he couldn’t see. His spine was severed and now for almost four decades, Scott has been a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair. But his faith and attitude have carried him through all these years. He even wrote an inspiring book about his experiences, Best When Broken. That’s attitude.

More personally, I recall an occasion several years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. On this particular day, I was feeling the effects of a flare with its accompanying aches and fatigue. It happened that my pastor, Charles Fuller, stopped by my office. I was wondering aloud to him if the RA would eventually take my ministry from me. To this day, I recall his wisdom. “Gary, if you’ve got a mind and a mouth, God can use you.” Talk about an attitude adjustment.

In the end, whether or not we will bloom where we are planted hinges, in large part, on our choice. It’s not circumstances that knock us down. It’s our attitude. In fact, it’s my conviction that attitude trumps circumstances every time. True, I’m not the “me” I used to be. But it’s time for me to stop being so self-absorbed and feeling sorry for myself. My longing for a past I’m not going back to is just wasted effort.

Maybe I can’t do what I used to do. But I can still embrace the world I live in – right now. I can still serve a purpose! For one, I want to keep learning. I firmly believe that when you stop learning, you die just a bit faster. I’ve discovered a new ministry through writing. I may not be all that good at it, but I do enjoy it. Through life coaching, I’m able to encourage others and express belief in them. It’s just one more way of paying forward the investment made in me by so many others.

We are planted by God with a purpose. In part, that purpose provides a path to our own sense of meaning and fulfillment. But, it’s not only about us; it’s always about honoring God. In spite of our circumstances, we still have value and purpose to God. We are never in the wrong place or the wrong time to honor God. Let’s determine, let’s decide to bloom where we’re planted. Let your light shine.

Dr. Gary A. Chapman was involved in leadership training with the BGAV prior to his retitrement.

He is a certified life coach who lives in Roanoke and is the author of Discovering My Niche.