Open ended

There is nothing that gives a garden a more polished and refined look than a nice edging around the flower beds. It serves the same purpose as a frame does as it defines the edges of a painting or picture, and draws attention to the beauty inside.

A good edge can be expensive. For many years, our little backyard oasis went without the finishing touch of border edging. When we began to formulate the idea of a patio over a barren patch of lawn, we started collecting flat stones for the project. As they were being slowly gathered from blasting sites, we began “temporarily” laying them along the edge of the curved flower beds in the backyard, awaiting the commencement of the patio project.

The difference it made was striking! How could we have gone so long without defining the edge of the garden? They simply HAD to stay there.

Six years later, those stones still line the beds, standing as a symbolic line of soldiers preventing the onslaught of the encroaching lawn. Of course, they do nothing to keep the lawn from growing underneath the loose stones. But when my gardening duties are done right, they appear to be doing their jobs as worthy sentinels.

Behind the scenes, these stones are actually moved more often than the casual garden visitor would guess. When the lawn is winning, they can retreat. When new plants are acquired or old plants have grown too large for the beds, the soldiers (with my help) advance.

As beautiful and sophisticated as a permanent concrete border would be, this strategic troop movement would not be possible.

I like to consider the borders as “open ended.” The garden certainly changes. Why shouldn’t the ends of it do so, too?

Open-endedness has a place in our lives and relationships, too.

A recent conversation with a very pleasant young man revolved around his salvation. The question was asked how he was saved spiritually. Not “if,” but “how.” As a good doctor listens, so should those who care about souls rather than physical bodies.

It turned out that this man didn’t have any confidence of the truth of the Bible, which was valuable to know before using the Bible to explain itself. The person with him was more interested in first impressions, so she ended up “coaching” him with what she thought would be acceptable responses.

The trouble was that it hampered an opportunity to listen to him. However, enough was said to know that he needed more information about fulfilled prophecies to fortify his inherited faith.

Questions that can be answered “yes” or “no” don’t garner much information, nor invite dialogue.

The “one another” verses in the Bible are open-ended. In other words, they don’t stop at a simple hello or handshake. Among the many things we do for one another are honoring, exhorting, praying, greeting, accepting, forgiving, instructing, and of course, loving. One week may find us admonishing one another, and the next week encouraging one another.

Just as the stone soldiers of my garden border may move forward or retreat, we may have to deal with one another differently as the need arises.

But how will we know what is needed unless we spend time together? If I am not tending my garden, I will be unaware that the verbena has completely overtaken the border and has rooted in the grass on the other side.

An open-ended border is only useful if the gardener takes time to tend it. Open-ended conversations can take us to useful places spiritually, but it takes time, patience, and caring.

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