The Spirituality of a GardenOctober 5th, 2012
I recently ate the last ear of corn produced by the humble garden in my backyard. As I stood there looking at the seven-foot stalks of corn, noticing the leaves fading from the deep green of spring to the yellowish and dried look of an autumn corn maze, I reflected on the meaning of all that has transpired with my garden.
It all began with a decision to pull out a large row of bushes I finally deemed too ugly and deformed to keep, and replace with what I hoped to be a beautiful garden. What I thought would be about nine thick bushes growing separately side by side turned out to be 17 bushes so intertwined that it was difficult to separate them from those nearby to even begin to dig them out of the ground.
The work under the intense heat of the summer sun was grueling, but within a couple of weekends I had the bushes pulled, the newly exposed fence behind cleaned, a garden wall built and new seeds planted with the hopes that I may get something even though I was starting in the middle of June rather than spring.
Although the work was indeed difficult, I still didn’t expect to bear the kind of fruit (or vegetables actually) that I did. We had tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, corn, green peppers, carrots and broccoli, and what appears to be a bumper crop of sweet potatoes and watermelon yet to be harvested. When I describe my garden people think I must live on a farm, but this garden is in only 24 feet by 4 feet in a small back yard.
All this reminded me of our walk with God. While I can say that I worked hard to create this garden, I cannot take much credit for the miracle of seeds turning into vegetables. Who but God could take credit for turning a small seed into 30 cucumbers, or hundreds of green beans? My work was hard but finite. God’s was miraculous and infinite.
The same goes for our spiritual lives. We must work to nurture our faith by taking time for prayer, gathering in community with others to worship, celebrating the sacraments and reaching out to live our faith in this world. But all that work amounts to little more than planting seeds.
Who we become and what happens to the world around us is the work of God. Never underestimate how much fruit God can produce when we open ourselves up to His grace. But also never allow the presumption of how much God can do to keep us from planting our seeds in the first place.
Photo credit: Used under Creative Commons Licensing, flickr/TinyTall