I have a confession to make: I suck at gardening.
If the term ‘green thumb’ was coined for cultivation crackerjacks like both of my parents, I’m the reason the term ‘black thumb’ exists.
I can barely grow potatoes. My attempts at rhubarb and raspberries – crops that tend to overrun most people’s gardens – both fell flat. If I put bedding plants in my flowerbeds, I can usually keep them alive for a couple of months, but not always.
In light of that reality, it was quite a relief when my family moved into our current home, as it came fully landscaped, without a square inch of open soil.
I’m mildly ashamed of my horticultural hopelessness, I admit. As I said, my parents are both excellent gardeners, and I work for an agricultural company, so I have no excuse. But the fact remains.But not long ago, vague feelings of inadequacy turned to mild horror and alarm when it dawned on me that the only job title available to humanity before The Fall was gardener.
‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ – Genesis 2:15
There’s a bit in Genesis 2 where Adam names the animals, but this was probably a one-time task, not an ongoing one. His focus seems to have been on flora, not fauna.
If the world was perfect until the serpent slithered into the garden in Genesis 3, does that mean every occupation under the sun other than gardening is an aberration? That God loves gardeners and tolerates everyone else?
… But there’s no doubt that horticulture is an activity close to the heart of God – and the Bible in general – so I’ve decided to explore some of the uses of The G-Word throughout Scripture, and share some thoughts in a blog series. Here goes:
† † †
God Herself‡‡ is often described as a gardener. This image is woven into the fabric of the Creation story as follows:
‘Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.’ – Genesis 1:11-12
It is good, isn’t it?
As Sam said to Tilley in the 1987 classic film, Tin Men…
Sam (Jackie Gayle): … I’m beginning to think about God more.
Tilley (Danny DeVito): What, you were never one of those atheists, were you?
Sam : No, I’m not sayin’ that. It’s just that I’m beginning to give God more thought.
Tilley: What, did you have some kind of religious experience or something.
Sam: Well, yeah, the other day I took the wife to lunch, we went and had some smorgasboard, and it just kinda happened.
Tilley: [Gags for a second at this] At the smorg… you found God at the smorgasboard?
Sam: Well, yeah, I’m looking at all this food, I see all these vegetables, and I think, all these things came outta the ground. I see tomatoes, outta the ground, carrots, outta the ground, radishes outta the ground. And I think, all of these things come outta the ground. And I’m just talkin’ about the vegetables, I haven’t gotten to the fruits yet. And I think, how can that be? How can all these things come outta the ground? With all these things comin’ outta the ground, there must be a God.
With all these things comin’ outta the ground, there must be a God, indeed.
† † †The word ‘garden’ appears 62 times in the Good Book – often simply as the setting in which a scene takes place, or a piece of property that’s discussed in the dialogue. But sometimes gardens seem to almost function like characters in the stories.
I imagine Eden revelling in her role as the home for humanity and the place in which God walks with people in the cool of the day.
A few thousand(?) years later, the Disciples couldn’t stay awake while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, but the garden himself seemed to keep vigil with Our Lord, sharing His anguish and fear; joining in His prayer for the disciples of then and now.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to use a feminine pronoun for Eden and a masculine one for Gethsemane, but what I have written, I have written.
† † †
‡‡Speaking of gender-specific pronouns, you may have noticed that I used a feminine pronoun to refer to God a few paragraphs ago, and I thought I’d provide a bit of context.
Last year, I decided to stop identifying God as male by default, as documented in my post Anti-pronoun. As painful as it is, I’ve been avoiding using any pronouns at all to refer to God since then. Instead, I keep using the (other) G-Word: ‘God poured Godself into the world’, rather than ‘God poured [Him/Her]self into the world’, and so on.
And it sets my teeth on edge, every single time. After all, God gave us pronouns; surely She must want us to use them!But recently, I’ve noticed some of my favorite liberal podcasters (including Daniel Kirk, host of the LectioCast, and the pastors from House for All Sinners and Saints) – who’d initially inspired my anti-pronoun stance – using pronouns freely, but simply alternating the masculine and the feminine.
Baldy see, Baldy do.
Last year, I speculated that God doesn’t have a gender – that the concepts of male and female are not part of the spiritual realm at all. But lately, I’m starting to wonder if it’s not more accurate to say that He is both genders simultaneously – that all that is masculine and all that is feminine coexist without contradiction inside Her infinitely wondrous being.
Might just be an exercise in self-justification, but either way, I think I’ll give pronounical leapfroggery a try, and use Him & Her and He & She to refer to the Almighty for the next little while. (Feel free to stand way over there to avoid scorching when I’m inevitably struck by lightning.)
Peace be with you.