Using garden activities as a spiritual metaphor are so commonplace, they’re almost cliché. But I think there’s a reason birds, gardening and nature resurface again and again—we see our Creator there. Even Jesus used lots of examples from nature in His parables.
As spring makes its reappearance, I can’t help but marvel at the tenacity, faithfulness and beauty of creation. Brown, dead earth births verdant life. Barren branches bud and bloom. Birds fill the air with song. The burgeoning landscape delights our senses. New growth brings new hope and new possibilities.
Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in these parts. I took advantage of the weather and worked in our little raised bed garden, planting seeds for lettuce and peas. It’s a small space and it didn’t take long to clear the debris, dig up invasive roots, work the soil and add some nutrients. In no time at all the fluffy rich soil was ready to receive the seeds that I sowed in neat little rows. “All we need now is rain,” I told my daughter who kept me company while I worked.
Just as I put away the last of the gardening tools, the darkening sky announced my request would be granted sooner than anticipated. Off in the distance blackness had replaced the bright blue horizon, and puffy clouds had morphed into menacing gray sentries. The setting sun cast an eerie glow over the foreboding heavens.
Dan and I sat outside to watch the oncoming storm. If we lived in a tornado area I’m certain we would’ve seen one. Yet when I turned around, the sky behind me was still sunny and peaceful. Doing a 360 I observed just about every kind of cloud and weather situation. From tranquil to tumultuous.
Soon the wind arrived, announcing the storm’s imminent arrival. Then lightning, thunder, sheets of rain and even hail descended upon us. (We’d gone inside by this point!) It seems my garden got the rain it needed…and then some.
Life can be like this. We never know when the rain will come and what form it will take. The gentle provision we expect may arrive as a violent thunderstorm or damaging hailstorm. And the situation in front of us, may not be the same behind us or to the side.
As I patiently pray for rain to end the drought I’m in, I realize I may not receive what I’m expecting, when I’m expecting it. This is something I can’t control. But, what I can control is whether the “soil” of my soul will be ready when the rain does come.
In the meantime, I can remove the debris of negative thoughts and bad habits. I can extract the invasive species of unforgiveness, disobedience and stubbornness that prevent new growth. I can nourish my soul with God’s word, worship and prayer. And I can add some seeds by spending time in life-giving Christian fellowship.
God is the gardener, not me. While I may have grand designs for a vegetable garden bursting with produce, He may have planned a tangle of wildflowers. Or an arid rock garden. Or a shade garden. I must submit and trust His holy hands.
I turned to my wise mentor, Oswald Chambers, to see what he has to say about this matter. It turns out, lots. Here are a few morsels to chew on:
“The only way we can be of use to God is to let Him take us through the crooks and crannies of our own characters…We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves; it is the last conceit to go. The only One Who understands us is God. The greatest curse in spiritual life is conceit.” (My Utmost for His Highest, 1/12)
“Many of us refuse to grow where we are put, consequently we take root nowhere…If we are not experiencing the ‘much more,’ it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us…” (1/26)
“Many of us prefer to stay at the threshold of the Christian life instead of going on to construct a soul in accordance with the new life God has put within. We fail because… we put things down to the devil instead of our own undisciplined natures.” (5/20)
“Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.” (5/20)
I see with startling clarity a truth I’d rather not admit: as much as I think my life is about God, I see it is still so much about me. God hasn’t been unfaithful. I have. Perhaps my drought is at least partly (or even mostly) my own doing.
You know, I feel relief in this confession. A weight’s been lifted. Who would have thought a good shaking by the scruff of the neck (or to stay on theme: a tilling of my soil) actually helps? But it does.
While my little garden should produce a bounty of greens within 45 days, I don't know what God has planned for my life's garden in the next 45 days. . . or 45 years. But I do know that it's a work in progress. Thankfully Scripture promises “that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) It's a good thing because I think it’s going to take a while!