At first glance, you may not think of gardening as a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines have been defined as, “…habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen certain qualities of spirit — to build the ‘muscles’ of one’s character and expand the breadth of one’s inner life. They structure the workouts which train the soul”.
Over the past year, this is exactly what gardening has done for me. In scripture, some of the most significant events took place in a garden: Creation, The Fall, Jesus’ Betrayal, and Resurrection. A garden is the stage and metaphor used to explain much of what God desires in our lives as He cultivates growth.
For the next few weeks, I invite you to explore this idea with me a bit further and glean the many truths found in the symbolism and discipline of gardening.
Week 1: Stewardship
We all come from different places, yet God knows exactly what and where those places are. He calls us in scripture to steward well that which we are given. So it greatly helps for us to explore and understand exactly what we have and what tools we are working with.
Last year my parents generously gave us a piece of land to build our house. During this process, I began to learn about the land I was given. I learned that there had been an old barn, and in digging through the rubble, discovered it was an old tobacco barn. I also learned that portions of the dirt were fertile and good, others were clay and full of rubble. I began the work of clearing the land. In this process, I would keep what was valuable and then get rid of that which was hazardous and troublesome.
This same act has been very true in my spiritual life as well. God has given me areas of ministry and relationships to steward. As I look around, I can see that there are some fertile parts in these areas, but also some areas that are struggling. I began to explore and see what others had done that I now inherited, both good and bad; what I must clear and what I could salvage or repurpose.
It would be ideal for us to walk into environments that were ready-made for us, much like on the popular DIY shows where they have a prep team that does all the hard work before you see it or that makes it seem really easy. Yet, this is not reality. We inherit from our predecessors both good and bad and we are charged with cultivating life and the image of God in those areas. The work is hard; it is labour intensive and often frustrating. You may be dog cussing while you dig out the toxic choices of others that are preventing life and beauty, yet it is necessary (the labor not the dog cussing).
So as we begin this short series, take some time to walk around and survey what you have been given.
What structures or factors have been passed down from your predecessors and families that you will have to deal with, both good and bad?
What vision has God given you for what these areas would look like if His beauty was present and life cultivated?
Many people want beautiful gardens that are low maintenance, yet this also isn’t a reality. What are the tasks that will be the most challenging?
How has God equipped you or who has God equipped you with that can help you in these tasks?
If you are lacking vision for these areas of your life, pray for the freedom and faith to dream.