The phrase “Bloom Where You’re Planted” used to grab my attention. So much so that white-distressed chalkboard frames, embellished with this saying, found their way into my shopping cart. At one point, I even made this phrase the theme of a ladies’ gathering at my church.
Motherhood was just another way to bloom as I used my creativity and strengths in new ways. When I only had one child, the idea of blooming where God had planted me seemed attainable. But when two more children and homeschooling were added to my everyday life, my struggle with deep feelings of inadequacy began. The daily work of feeding, clothing, and training little ones—while also teaching my oldest child phonics, handwriting, and math—never seemed to go the way I planned. I felt like I was wilting, not blooming. The classic hymn’s lines, “Frail as summer’s flower we flourish / Blows the wind and it is gone,” described me in this season. 
But God planted a new truth in my heart —my blooming could look different than I had imagined. He had set me in a place and given me a purpose. And I was slowly coming to see how the first few chapters of Genesis could form a vision for my life.
A God-Given Responsibility
Genesis 1 illustrates how everything God created was overflowing with life. Magnifying the Creator’s goodness, the lush Garden was full of trees, flowers, and fruit, as well as animals, fish, and birds. God then shaped two persons and placed them there. This part of Creation—humanity—was made to image the Creator-King. Three times God stated he would make humans—male and female—in his own image , and then he commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion...” (Genesis 1:28)
The man and woman God created, image-bearers equal in value and dignity, were to use their imaginations and abilities to take God’s work and expand it out into the world. This is called the cultural mandate. And just as Adam and Eve were given this work to do, so too, were their descendants. Together they were given the job to be makers, cultivators, and caretakers; and so are we.
This Creation Story-truth helped me see that the place where I lived and how I sought to cultivate it for my people were part of God’s Kingdom Story. I grew to see that I could reflect the image of God through ordinary days of making meals, doing laundry, training children, planning celebrations, and establishing traditions in our home.
A God-Given Helper
My vision and imagination were then enlarged by studying Genesis 2. There I saw that God designed women to image him in a distinct way. As Adam named the animals, he learned it was not good to be alone. God said, “…I will make a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
The phrase “Helper fit for him” is a translation of the Hebrew Ezer kenegdo. By the time Moses had written the Creation account, he had seen God act as a strong helper to the Israelites over and over. He was their strength, their rescuer, and their protector.
When Moses wrote the account of the first woman being made, he used the word ezer to describe her, offering a vision of women as strong helpers.
God is not a junior assistant, but crucial because of the aid, strength, and support he gives his people, therefore, I am not a junior assistant to my husband in the fulfillment of the cultural mandate in our home and community. “Necessary ally” is another helpful translation that can clarify the meaning of the word ezer.  God has made me a necessary ally and calls me to live my days loving, serving, advocating for, and encouraging others where he has planted me.
God’s Help For Our Need
God had gifted me for this work, but I was not a consistent necessary ally. Although I embraced this vision of being an ezer, the days were long, the kids’ noses were dripping, the reading lessons stumbled along, and the work of training the kids in the faith and in obedience seemed fruitless. My imperfections screamed in my mind, and my inadequacies pierced my heart. One day a mentor said, “Leslie, you already pray for God to help you; ask him to open your eyes to see how he is helping you now.”
So I prayed.
When I was weary, I learned to pray, “I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer.” (Psalm 70:5)
When I realized I was striving in my own strength, I learned to pray “wait in hope for the LORD” because I needed him to be “my help and shield.” (Psalm 33:20)
When I worried over the future, I learned to pray “I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 11:1-2)
A new picture of blooming has replaced my first one. Jesus promises, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) I am a child of God through faith in Jesus; he has made me a new creation and promises to complete the work he began in me. It is only as his life gives me life that I am able to give my life for others as an ezer.
You and I are made in God’s image. With God as our strong helper—and trusting him for the fruit of our work—we can be strong helpers for others. We can strengthen, build, defend, encourage, and create culture in our homes and communities. It is through living as necessary allies—for the people God has given us in the places he has put us—that you and I can truly bloom where we’re planted.
Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven. Henry Francis Lyte; 1834
Genesis 1:26, 27
McKinley, John “Necessary Allies - God as Ezer, Woman as Ezer” -- a paper presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 17-19, 2015, Atlanta, GA.
Leslie Anne Bustard has been married to Ned for 29 years and is the mother of three grown daughters. She teaches 7th and 8th grade Literature and runs the theater department at a classical Christian school in Lancaster County, PA. A partner at Square Halo Books, she is currently developing their podcast series and spring conference. A lover of Scripture, theology, books, poetry, art, museum-ing, and British murder mysteries, Leslie takes great delight in enfolding people at church and around her kitchen table. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.