Friday, May 18, 2012

Tilling the Soul

I apologize for not blogging for a few weeks, but I need to confess something. I’m…a gardener. It’s actually worse than that…technically, I’m a Master Gardener (that's really just a fancy way of saying I took several weeks of classes on gardening and did some volunteer work). When spring arrives, I am outside planting, pruning or weeding. And this year I have a new yard to play with!

My current project is planting my first ever vegetable garden. As an adult, I’ve never had a yard that enabled me to plant vegetables before, so I’m pretty excited about this; so excited that I bought twice the number of seeds that I needed! I’m experimenting with a pallet garden (below) since it takes a near miracle to grow anything in Indiana clay.

Waiting for the seeds to sprout!
All of this planting has gotten me thinking about how many parallels gardening has to life. Did you know that Jesus used a few gardening illustrations in several of His teachings? In Mark 4, He compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed telling the disciples that the smallest of all seeds grows into the largest of all garden plants. He cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit in Matthew 21. In John 15, He explains that the key to bearing fruit is staying connected to the vine (Jesus). So, what has gardening taught me about life so far?

Renewal = Hope
I think there are few things in the natural world more exciting than that first sprout of green pushing its way through the soil in the dawn of spring. It’s a sign that things are coming alive, being renewed, and becoming what they were meant to be. This is the essence of the Christian life! The morning I met Jesus, I remember looking out the window and feeling like the trees looked greener, the sky was bluer and the people walking down the sidewalk looked more animated than ever before. It was like turning on the windshield wipers of my soul. Everything was new and fresh. After the cold gray of winter, spring is my yearly reminder that as a Christian I have an eternal hope. Regular renewal of my spiritual life is keeps that hope fresh.

Weeds Must be Killed
I hate weeds. I hate them because they are so prolific and it doesn’t matter how much mulch and weed preventer and hand-pulling I do; they find their way into my garden. It’s just like sin in my life. It’s always lurking just below the surface. A harsh word chokes my reputation as a believer; an ulterior motive destroys my good deeds; idleness steals my time with the Lord. Sin chokes out our spiritual life. This is why it is vital for me to kill the weeds of sin in my life while they are small. I know too many people who let the little sins grow into big ones and it destroyed their lives. I am starting to figure out that a little Bible reading and prayer tills my soul just like a gentle rain shower – and it makes the sin (and the weeds) a little bit easier to remove.

Growth Takes Time
When you plant something, you just can’t wait for it to reach its fullness. You want to see big, perfect flowers the second the plant is in the ground. You want the tree to shade the patio or the bush to fill in that space in front of the central air unit. You want vegetables to keep the grocery bill low. But things don’t grow in the real world the way they do in Farmville. The same is true of spiritual maturity. I want to be the mentor or the evangelist or the seasoned counselor now. I want to “arrive.” The good news and the bad news here are the same: we’re never going to “arrive” on this side of heaven. That can be a blessing because it takes the pressure off. God gives me grace! And it's far more than I deserve. I must learn to accept His grace – and then give it to others, too!

Those are just a few things I have learned from gardening. Do you garden? If not, I'm giving you an assignment: plant something. I don't care what you plant, but put it somewhere you will see it every day. As you watch it grow throughout the season, think about your spiritual life and where you are on your journey and where you would like to be. Then quench your thirst, fertilize your soul and watch your life blossom into the person God made you to be.

How does your garden – and your soul – grow?

Copyright ©2012 by Cherry Lyn Hoffner. You may not reproduce this post in any form without written permission from the author. However, linking to this post is encouraged.

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