I love gardening – a love I developed after marriage. I embraced overgrown beds, vines, underbrush, and poor soil without a clue how to begin; lack of training, even a want of success, never dampened my enthusiasm.
My first gardening attempt was cut short because I didn’t recognize that the vine I attacked was not ivy – it was poison ivy. Who knew that poison ivy grew outside of the woods? I learned, though, how quickly contact dermatitis can spread.
My second attempt was taming a privet hedge, not realizing that the clippings do not simply decompose into mulch when laid behind the garage. I also learned pruning back to the roots can kill!
On the third attempt, the leaves overwhelmed me; I had decided to wait until all the leaves had fallen before raking. Not a good plan.
Then I started listening to and observing other gardeners. I quit pretending I knew what I was doing. If I didn’t know, I asked. I watched neighbors bag up their yard waste, letting the city collect it; I saw when they pruned, fertilized, and mulched. Now I could be serious about planting, having figured out what to avoid, what to do with the trash – and pruning shears.
Gardening has many parallels to my spiritual life. I wanted to take part in a “religious” life, jumping in, not knowing much, but a bit embarrassed to admit my ignorance. I rubbed up against some pesky stuff and got a form of spiritual dermatitis; I got overwhelmed with the debris in my heart and mind – and didn’t know where to get rid of it. Mercifully, God put me in touch with some Christians who loved God and His word. Then, I found that keeping in step with the Holy Spirit can be as much of a workout as keeping up with a bountiful garden! The workout has been worth it.
Today I am far from those familiar gardens: I don’t know what plants do best in Texas heat and drought – I can’t even say with certainty what the soil is. We attend a solid church, are making good friends, while enjoying reconnecting with a loving family; I have folks who can answer gardening questions – So, what’s the parallel now to my spiritual life?
Everything feels great, but nothing is the same – and the sun dial of my life casts longer shadows. Some questions I flat out hesitate to ask – for I can hear an answer that Christ gave to Peter:
I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go. He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-22 from THE MESSAGE )
The question is the same as yesterday: How does a woman, whose life bloomed in one soil, flourish in another?
- She needs to remember that the garden, just like the battle is the Lord’s. (2 Chronicles 20:15)
- She needs to listen: “Here’s another Message from GOD to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow your unplowed fields, but then don’t plant weeds in the soil!” (Jeremiah 4:3 from THE MESSAGE )
- And she needs to trust: “I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places — firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.” (Isaiah 58:11-14 from THE MESSAGE )