By nature, I am creative. Creativity feeds my soul. When I inhibit that part of me, I become hollow and easily frustrated. But when I practice creativity, it produces in me freedom and fulfillment. To rephrase a quote from Eric Liddell*: ‘… when I create, I feel God’s pleasure.’
During the spring and summer months, gardening is my expression of creativity. I love many plants, whether they are native or invasive. I love rescuing plants… I go to the local stores and buy the marked-down plants whose flowers have been spent, and no one wants them that way. Rarely do I go by the book, but tend to experiment with placement, more than willing to move them if they do not do well, and giddy when they flourish where they are not “supposed” to. My delight is seeing them thrive and bring forth their fruits. Gardening is simple gratification and a witness to mystery.
To most people my gardens look like sheer chaos. Plants are crowded in together and appear to be haphazard. There looks to be no rhyme or reason. Someone with latent OCD must get nervous with the seeming disorder of it all.
But I love it.
The chaos gives me delight and makes me smile. Each plant has its own unique beauty. Each plant blooms at different times in the season. Each plant brings blessing to the whole garden.
“As each flower in its uniqueness
Blesses the garden,
The interconnectedness of all
Brings it to fulfillment.” **
This very loose translation of Psalm 125 speaks to me of this very thing. But I don’t think the writer of the Psalm or this paraphrase intends to really be speaking of plants and gardens. My sense is that the plants are individuals and the garden is the people of God.
I can liken my garden to the Church. A stranger looking in at the Church must think it is terribly chaotic. So many different individuals. So many different ways to express faith in God. So many worship styles, and along with that a plethora of diverse opinions. One would think that the Church is not one entity, but many. It can be difficult to imagine the uniqueness of the individuals as a blessing.
Yet there is a unity there.
It is the same Church with the same message that Jesus gave us: Love God; Love your neighbor. But how it is worked out in the uniqueness of individuals can only come about through the mystery of God’s work. It is a reflection of God’s creativity.
When I compare how I garden with how God leads his Church, suddenly many things make sense.
Some plants need pruning, some need to be moved, some need to be watered more, others not so much. Some need more protection from the evil around them (in my case rabbits and deer). Some plants need to be given a chance again after being discarded. All of these things have purpose for the garden to thrive and flourish.
The Church is much the same.
I can imagine God taking delight in each individual when they thrive and bloom. Becoming giddy when they flourish even if they aren’t “supposed” to. Or when they are not, he lovingly takes them out of one environment to help them come to their fullest potential in another, more suitable one. God takes the ones who seem lowly in the eyes of the world, and gives them opportunity to become magnificent again.
When God looks at individuals within the Church, does he see them as I see my plants, each with their own unique beauty? I think so. I believe God sees each person as a blessing to the whole Church, as I see each plant a blessing to my garden.
Each individual has value beyond the measurement of the world.
Each is instrumental in bringing fulfillment to the wholeness of the Church. The Church is blessed by the involvement of everyone who is called into it.
What does this mean to us as we look at the individuals within the Church?
How we can we take steps to value all who are called to the Church?
*From the movie “Chariots of Fire”, Eric Liddell says: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
**Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill, Tenth Anniversary Edition,(Psalm 125, pg.261),Bloomsbury: New York, 2007.