In the novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, there is a wonderful scene that takes place in the abandoned English garden that gives the novel its name. Two characters, Mary Lennox, a girl of about eleven or so and the main character, and Dickon Sowerby, the semi-wild younger brother of the house maid Martha, are standing in the garden in very late winter. To Mary’s eyes, all she sees is dead wood, gray branches and barren ground. But to Dickon, who’s lived on the moors and tramped through the fields all his young life, he sees something different:
“There’s lots o’ dead wood as ought to be cut out,” he said. “An’ there’s a lot o’ old wood, but it made some new last year. This here’s a new bit,” and he touched a shoot which looked brownish green instead of hard, dry gray. Mary touched it herself in an eager, reverent way.
“That one?” she said. “Is that one quite alive quite?”
Dickon curved his wide smiling mouth.
“It’s as wick as you or me,” he said; and Mary remembered that Martha had told her that “wick” meant “alive” or “lively.”
“I’m glad it’s wick!” she cried out in her whisper. “I want them all to be wick. Let us go round the garden and count how many wick ones there are.”
Mary learns something in that garden, something that changes her life, and the lives of all the residents of Misselthwaite Manor. She realizes that what seems to be dead may really be full of life, bursting forth when the time comes to bring beautiful flowers and deep green leaves to the world.
Some time ago I started growing orchids, and if you know anything about orchids, you know that they don’t flower for ever. Most of the time they look like a dead twig sticking out of the pot. But with careful watering and diligent patience, they usually flower again. As an interesting bit of trivia, I first fell in love with orchids when I was in Papua New Guinea, and I had many types of orchids to choose from. PNG has over 2,500 different species of orchids, which is quite a lot for a little Pacific island!
Potatoes are similar in a way. If you’ve ever bought potatoes, you know that they grow ‘eyes’, the common term for a potato when it begins to sprout. They can also go bad inside, turning black and soft and very, very smelly. But even when they are totally rotten, those eyes are, as Dickon might say, wick. If you plant them in the ground in the spring, you will likely be harvesting many new, beautiful potatoes in the autumn.
Sometimes things seem rotten, spoiled, gray or dead. But looks can be deceiving. How many people in this world have gone rotten, spiritually, but later come to life in God? How many times have you met a person and thought they were completely dead inside, but later you find out they really were wick?
Just as Jesus died – really died – then came back to life, so things in our life can seem dead, but are they really? With patience and proper care, many things which appear to have outlived their usefulness are, in truth, still alive, still important. But these dead things need proper care, and that is where the love and compassion Jesus Christ taught comes into play. We are the caretakers of this world, and of each other, and we must never give up on anyone or anything, because you never know when they’re actually wick!