Gardening is an important part of the rhythm of my life. I have always loved God’s creation, but it is only since I settled in Seattle that I have become an avid gardener. As part of our commitment to simplicity and selfsustainability, we grow as much of our ownfruits and vegetables as possible on our urban lot. Fortunately the climate in the Pacific Northwest is ideal for this venture. At this time of the year, our front porch bulges with seedlings ready to be planted. I know of no more satisfying experience than to eat produce freshly harvested and cooked from the garden.
Celebrating God’s presence in the garden is one way I absorb the soothing rhythms encased in the seasons of the year. Early monastic communities recognized gardening as part of God’s mandate to care for the Earth and believed gardens enabled them to re-create the paradise man and woman once shared with God.
Gardening not only renews and refreshes me; it has also taught me important lessons about our Creator God. In her book Looking For God, Nancy Ortberg says, “Nature holds more beauty than our eyes can bear,” which beautifully sums up why I have developed such a love affair with the garden. We can try to recreate an experience of heaven in our churches with bells, smells, and rich ornamentation, but that doesn’t come close to the wonder of God experienced in the fragrance of flowers, the melody of birdsong, and the beauty of plants and animals.
I think that one reason people are moving away from Christianity at time-warp speed is because we have so divorced our faith from the natural world. We confine our worship to a small, stuffy church building and restrict our devotion to reading words about God without connecting to the glory of God all around us. I read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but I experience it every time I plant a seed and watch it burst into life. I read about the faithfulness of God to Israel, but I experience it every time I watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds I have planted. I read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves, but I experience a miracle every time I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.
Gardening has also taught me to pay attention to the beauty, diversity, and creativity of God’s world. As I watch the days and the seasons follow in their expected patterns, I am reminded of the faithfulness of a God who comes to us in all seasons of our lives. I am also reminded that our God, who poured out his great love in the complexity, beauty, and diversity of creation, still cares for us and for all creation and will never abandon what he has made.
Probably my most profound garden lessons come from winter. Why, I wonder, do we prune our fruit trees in the winter when they seem so bare and vulnerable? Or probably more to the point, why does God insist on pruning our lives during the difficult winters of suffering that all of us endure? Winter pruning encourages roots to go down deeper and strengthen the tree. The harder we prune, the more vigorous the spring growth will be and the greater the harvest. Maybe it is the same in our lives; God often prunes us during the frigid seasons of struggle and pain, when the branches seem bare and our souls feel most vulnerable. And often the pruning is just as severe as what I inflict on 24 my trees. If we really want to be fruitful during the seasons of harvest that God allows us, then we need to be willing to be pruned and shaped not during the times that life is good when we can handle a little painful cutting, but during those wintery season when we feel spring will never come again.
Perhaps you don’t enjoy gardening like I do, but as we move into the summer and the rich abundant harvest of God’s provision, you may like to spend time thinking about how God reveals himself to you through creation.
In particular, think about and pray for those who earn their living through interaction with God’s creation. Farmers, forestry workers, landscape gardeners, and conservationists are but a few of the professions that labor in God’s creation who need our prayers. We all reap the benefits of their efforts as we eat their produce, admire their landscapes, and walk amongst the parks they preserve.
The wonder and glory of God is all around us. May we all open our eyes to see and experience God in new ways this year.
WEEKLY CHALLENGES FOR 4/3 – 4/9
– Replace your coffee and tea with fair-trade brands. Find out where you can buy other fair-trade food items in your neighborhood
– Visit the local farmers market and use only produce that comes from the market.
– Send a note of thanks to local organic farmers as a sign of appreciation for their efforts to preserve God’s creation while providing food for your table.
– Take a special lunch to migrant farm workers on a local farm. They often do backbreaking work for little pay.
– Buy local. When purchasing items this week, consider the distance they had to travel in order to reach you and the amount of petroleum used in the process. Whether in the grocery or hardware store, factor the proximity of the source into your purchasing criteria.
– Enjoy the “100 Mile Diet” for a week. Only consume food that has been grown within one hundred miles of your home.