When I think about gardens, I think of my mom’s yard.
Potato plants like ferns. Carrots plants like pine saplings. Tomato plants dripping with fruit. Onion plants that stand higher than the back fence. Enough cucumber plants to keep Bicks in business for at least six months. All in rows so straight an OCD Prussian would be impressed – and nary a weed to be found. My then-eight-year-old daughter galonking along in her Thanksgiving dress and rubber boots, picking and eating onion leaves or a filthy – and yet pristine – carrot.
The word ‘garden’ to me means ‘vegetable garden’.
But for plenty of other people, the G-word is used to describe many environments other than the place we grow veggies. It can also refer to what I call ‘flower beds’, or even the whole yard.
My definition seems rather narrow when I think of it in that context, but it also feels right to me – regardless of the fact that my friends Oxford, Webster and even Wiktionary say otherwise!
I might not always quibble out loud about it when someone uses the G-word improperly (sez I), but I might still get hung up on it enough that it distracts me from fully engaging with the conversation – or even enjoying the garden (or yard) I’m sitting in!
And in a similar way, I wonder if the way I see God’s creation – and define the term ‘God’s people’ – is narrower than God’s view of these things. I wonder if that’s true for some of you as well.
Are we missing out on the joy that comes from experiencing community with God’s people by fussing about who is and isn’t in that category?
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One thing I really admire about gardeners is that they know their place in the universe.
Gardeners do their part – they plant, water, weed, fertilize, prune and harvest – but gardeners don’t make the crops grow, God does.
‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
The gardener controls what she can, but all of her actions are done in response to what God (or Nature, if you’re uncomfortable with that particular G-word) has already done and can be relied on to continue to do. It’s a partnership, but one in which the gardener is unquestionably the junior partner, and both parties are satisfied with the arrangement.
As is illustrated in Paul’s words of wisdom in the quote above, gardening is a great illustration of the Christian life overall, isn’t it?
Our words and actions – the way we treat others and intentionally help them connect with the Living Water of Christ – are like the work of a faithful gardener who does her part in collaboration with her fellow gardeners, and with God. But when we have our heads on straight, we don’t forget that it’s not our jobs to cause the seeds to germinate and take root; for the plants we sow to take up moisture and nutrients – that’s all God’s job.
And thank God for that!
But on the same token, God has chosen to delegate the responsibility of tending the garden to us.
Without us, there is no garden!
Just a bunch of crabgrass and dandelions, with an occasional carrot or potato plant growing defiantly here or there.
The harvest in such a would-be garden is pitiful, not plentiful.
And I think that’s just as true with spiritual gardening as it with regular gardening – and that means being God’s gardener is a wondrous invitation, but it’s also a tremendous responsibility.
Peace be with you.