Hardening off

by Christine Berglund

Eager gardeners sometimes tend to set out plants early, like the tomato plants we put in before the last frost date two years ago. We harvested our first tomato from one of them in April , and had plenty of ripe tomatoes mid-May.

Not so this year. We just celebrated the first day of summer this past week, and I still had two little tomato plants to put into the garden. They were more than ready!

“Hardening off” is a process where the tender plants, which had been sheltered from extreme temperatures in the greenhouse, are exposed to lower temps little by little.

The gardener might bring them inside at night but leave them out in a shady location during the day. Then, when they can stand the full glare of the sun and the drying winds, they will be moved to a sunnier, less protected location.

After a while, they are left outside at night in the colder temperatures.

By this time the baby plants are ready for a little transplanting shock as they are moved to their permanent residence in the vegetable garden. The little guys have been kicked out of their nest on the porch and are on their own.

People around us are no different.

Too many times we think of something good to say to someone, but it goes unsaid. This week I made a point to tell the new girl at work what a nice job she did on a difficult project.

The response I got from my casual compliment was surprising. She called me up immediately to tell me how much it meant to her to have someone say something positive. It made me think of myself as that tomato plant, having gotten used to the coldness of the workplace and thinking nothing of it. That poor tender hothouse plant that just started work two months ago wasn’t tough like me.

My life is very blessed, but it wasn’t always this way. As a very little girl, I was sheltered and loved. As I entered adolescence, my sweet mother passed away. Life afterward did not give such emotional shelter. The cold, harsh realization that I was not lovable was almost too much to bear.

A few years later, I received my first Bible and found a safe place there! I was worthy enough for the King of kings to have died for me!

The “hardening off” process wasn’t going to kill me, after all. It did make me much stronger. Then thanks to the caring Christians who came to do mission work in the North, I was brought to Christ. My church family became my sanctuary, my safe place, as I became a young adult.

We must be very careful to protect our young or otherwise tender Christians. I have accidentally frozen my tomato and pepper plants by not covering them up when it turned too cold.

We all need a little help when we encounter the stark realities of life. At preaching school, we had a saying, “It’s real out there.” The school was the covered porch, while the work was the open garden with all kinds of weather.

I’m thankful now for the hard times that made me stronger. I pray that my heart won’t ever be “hardened,” like the people in John 12:37-40.

This week was a reminder that there are tender people who, like the hothouse plants, need a little help from those of us who are now thriving in the coldness of the world. Grow love this week. Be a sanctuary, a safe place, for somebody.

 

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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