Planting inspirations in my faith journey

Gardening is a hobby I have taken up lately. Even though I am an amateur at gardening, I have picked up many pointers from watching YouTube videos and from other gardening enthusiasts.

Sep 08, 2023

The leaves of a Prayer plant unfurl in the daytime and fold up at night to look like hands held together in prayer.


Gardening is a hobby I have taken up lately. Even though I am an amateur at gardening, I have picked up many pointers from watching YouTube videos and from other gardening enthusiasts. There are various common indoor and outdoor plants to learn about, and how to care for them.

During this gardening journey, I have come to discover that plants can teach us about spirituality, remind us about the “enemy”, or even inspire us to read more of the Bible, especially the Old Testament which I often neglect. Here are three types of plants that have inspired my faith journey.

Prayer Plant
Prayer plants are named as such because the leaves unfurl in the daytime and fold up at night to look like hands held together in prayer. The movement of the leaves is known as nyctinasty. Prayer plants are also known as calatheas.
A few months ago, I bought a Prayer plant from a nursery in Klang. My mum selected it because of the beautiful markings on its leaves that look like brushstrokes in a painting. That inspired me to name the plant “Rembrandt” after my favourite painter.

After bringing “Rembrandt” home, I read up about how to care for this type of plant. I discovered that calatheas are relatively difficult to grow because they are sensitive plants. Calatheas require minimum sunlight, minimum amount of water, don’t like chlorine water, and need high humidity. If any of the conditions are not met, the plant will immediately show its “displeasure” by turning the edges of its leaves brown.

The challenges of growing Prayer plants are similar to the challenges in nurturing our prayer life. Often, we don’t make time to pray; and when we do, we rush through prayer for the sake of praying. I am guilty of that, especially when praying the lauds, vespers, and the rosary.

Even though Prayer plants are difficult to grow, if cared for properly, they will grow into beautiful plants that are a joy to look at. Similarly, it may be challenging to have a prayer life, but if nurtured correctly through discipline, prayer will help us develop a beautiful relationship with God.

My “Rembrandt” is still growing, albeit a few leaves turned brown which I snipped away. Shoots are growing too and soon I’ll have to transfer “Rembrandt” into a bigger pot. I will continue to place “Rembrandt” in my living room, so that whenever I see its leaves unfurl and fold up, it will remind me to put my hands together in prayer.

Devil’s Ivy
Devil’s Ivy is also known as pothos. It is named after the Devil because it is a hardy plant and difficult to kill, just like the Devil.

After learning the reason behind its name, whenever I see Devil’s Ivy growing almost everywhere — in restaurants, spas, public washrooms, homes, planter boxes, at the side of the road, etc., it reminds me that the Devil is everywhere and always seeking the ruin of souls.

I have in my collection five different types of Devil’s Ivy, i.e. exotica, gold, jade, marble queen and neon. I would like to think that the different types of Devil’s Ivy represent different types of sin. I should probably grow another two types of Devil’s Ivy – to represent the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

Devil’s Ivy is also known as money plant. Since money is the root of all evil, the money plant is a reminder that many lives have been ruined because of the love of money.

Joseph’s Coat
The Joseph Coat plant has brightly coloured foliage just like the colourful coat owned by Joseph in the Old Testament. The plant loves the sun and heat, similar to the heat of the desert.

In the book of Genesis, Joseph was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons, and gave Joseph a coloured cloak (or coat) with long sleeves. His brothers became jealous of him and sold him into slavery. Joseph was taken to Egypt where he was eventually selected as governor of Egypt after he successfully interpreted Pharoah’s dream. Joseph was also responsible for preparing the people of Egypt for the great famine by rationing the country’s produce.

I refreshed my reading of the Old Testament after adding Joseph’s Coat to my plant collection.

Conclusion
There are many plants with names associated with Christianity such as Crown-of-Thorns, Bishop’s Weed, Holy Basil and St John’s Wort. Perhaps I will read up more about each plant and try to grow them. If they grow and thrive in the heat and humidity of Malaysia, they can be sources of reflection. Beautiful plants are not only a joy to look at, they are an inspiration in my faith journey.

(Julie Lim Seet Yin believes that a satisfied life measured by one’s heart, mind and soul is better than a successful life measured by worldly yardsticks. She can be reached at: [email protected])

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