A Lesson from the Garden
This morning I was up early to tend my garden. The temperature these days has been running in the high 80s and low 90s, and the humidity is high. So the only “tolerable” time for garden work is early mornings, before the day wakes up to the fact that it’s now mid-summer!
On the agenda this morning was harvesting okra, green beans, tomatoes, yellow beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and crook-necked summer squash. In the process of harvesting, I discovered a colony of beetles enjoying my okra leaves, and evidence that a rabbit or two had feasted on my green bean leaves.
While roaming my garden, my heart almost always lifts heavenward. My Lord and I have such sweet communication in the garden. The world is quiet and fresh. It’s just Him and me, working together, enjoying His gifts in the garden. And often I cannot fail to see parallels between the garden of my vegetables and the Garden of His Kingdom. Jesus Himself drew parallels as He and His disciples passed the gardens and fields outside the villages. “White unto harvest,” “Look at the flowers,” “Cursed is this fig tree,” “A sower went forth to sow,” “The husbandman prunes his vines,” etc. He even used a garden proverb to describe the most intimate relationship between Himself and His child: abiding as a grape vine: “except ye abide in me, you cannot bring forth fruit.”
There are many lessons in these short phrases of our Lord, but this morning, none of those were on my mind. What was on my mind? The place of duty, of keeping on keeping on, of striving to the end, of faithful stewardship, of diligence.
You see, at this time of the gardening season, the “joys” have faded into struggles. The enthusiasm of spring has turned to a dull fatigue. The eager anticipation of planting has turned to same-old, same-old daily picking. And each picking means hours of processing in the kitchen. In the early days, everyone volunteered to help me; now everyone has other things to do. The fresh, much-welcomed warmth of spring has turned to a heavy-handed, energy-sapping heat. Where once only beautiful green growth greeted me, now dull leaves, ridden with holes, can barely lift their heads to welcome me. Once I was alone, with only birdsongs sharing my presence; now I’m surrounded by bugs, mosquitoes, spiders, and lizards.
The garden has become a burden. The struggle within is one of stewardship, of faithfulness. I have planted a garden. I have asked the Lord of the Harvest to bless my garden with produce. The joys of harvest have long since passed. Faded is the memory of that first cute little green bean snuggled in the leaves. I remember the beginning of harvest time, dawdling over each bean, or cucumber, or squash, savoring the picking, feasting my eyes on the basketful of vegetables.
But now I have canned umpteen million quarts of vegetables. The freezer is full of apples for winter pies and zucchini for bread. The shelves are full and overflowing with jars of green beans, pickles, squash, all waiting for their turn at the dinner table. Some jars have “soup” written on them; they look pretty, with various combinations of corn, tomatoes, beans, squash, and okra. As I look at my pantry now I long for the cool days of fall and the rosy fireplace of winter. But I cannot yield to such emotions. Duty calls today. There is more harvest to be gathered, more bugs to deal with, more heat to be endured.
How like the “real world” of Christian living this is! I do not think that Life is one huge cycle. Rather, I think it is a series of cycles. Each cycle has its spring, summer, fall, and winter. Take the parenting cycle for instance. I remember the joy of the spring of parenting, the eager anticipation of harvesting young lives for the Kingdom; I also remember the keeping-on-keeping-on struggle 10 years later, when the freshness of parenting had long since faded. And now I am in the winter of my parenting cycle, sitting by the fireplace, enjoying my son in his adulthood.
Or take the cycle of work outside the home. For me, most of this has been in the field of nursing. I remember the spring, when there was little that excited me more than going to the hospital to make a difference in someone’s life. I remember the thrill of competition with “nature’s forces” as we struggled to save a life in an emergency situation. Now I’m in the late summer of this cycle. Going to the hospital no longer carries the “thrill” it once did. I go because I’m appointed by my Lord to go.
There are many other cycles in Life – marriage, hobbies, ministry. I have had many ministry cycles. Our current ministry is the church in Ethiopia. Where are we in this cycle? I’d say it’s still springtime. We’ve planted a variety of “seeds,” and some early fruits are already on the plants. What a joy-filled time this is, as we are filled with the wonder of His spiritual creation!
During these hot, fatiguing, uncomfortable days of necessity, when stewardship of His blessing is our motivation, my prayer for you and for me is that He might:
“Find us Faithful.”
July 26, 2006