I garden. For fun. For eye-appeal when I sit on my deck sipping a tea. For show-offing to the neighbor slackers. For relaxation.
When I was still heavy into the corporate work life, I called it my stress relief, my sanity enhancer. And it was. Many a tangled root that took on an imagined face of a troubling co-worker got chopped into shreds so ‘it could be healthy and multiply.’ It did. My stress was relieved. My sanity enhanced. I think a psychiatrist would have other stuff to say about that imaginary face thing, but it was years ago, and I don’t do that anymore.
But mostly I have always gardened because I feel close to God there. When I have soil in my hands. When I am sitting in the mulch. When I am stirring and spreading compost. When I place a seed in the dirt and know that somehow this dead-looking crumb will birth a living plant. When I see a wiggly worm that will nourish and aerate the soil.
He leads me beside still quiet waters, he restores my soul. ~ Psalm 23:2-3
Sometimes that closeness looks quiet and serene, and I scratch around at a slow pace, with delicacy and a light touch. I stroll around with Him.
Sometimes I am a brutal taskmaster, ripping out weeds and dead things and spraying away all the bugs that think they belong. The obvious days of my wrestling with Him.
Sometimes I sit in the soil, just because I must be down and dirty at eye level with the garden’s life. These times, I am in serious chat mode with Him. Oh my, how I savor these dirt-sitting conversations.
Mostly, I am just with Him. Not praying, but not not praying. Sensing His presence and wordlessly melting into it. Almost a palpable, physicalness to it. On these days, I settle into a groove of planting and picking and nurturing as He walks along with me.
My garden, over the decades, has become a complete and freeing reflection of my faith.
You will fill me with joy in your presence. ~Psalm 16.11
To look at my gardens, there is not a person who would consider them orderly and pristine. It is crazy disorganized. The colors aren’t particularly complimentary, the beds don’t flow together. It is a study in chaos, from the first flower to the last, from the first chartreuse green of the spurge to the deepest blue-green of a hosta under the shade of the evergreen.
It grows in one corner, and looks near-dead in another. It flourishes for a while in the front, but falls to mildewed death in a day. I have no plan for continuing bloom. I have no plan for succession planning. I have no plan to test the soil or mix in some magic enhancer other than my weak attempt at composting.
Exactly like my faith, reflected in everything about my garden.
Growing. Wilting, Reviving. Flowering. Budding. Dying. Blooming. All at the same time. It lives and moves and expands. It reacts to what’s healthy as well as what’s not-so-healthy. Yet there is a sureness to it, a calmness.
To my garden. To my faith.
If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles. ~C.S. Lewis
Last week, I sat on the edge of a bed of weeds, staring at them. Little purple flowers on long green stems, all tangled together. Hundreds of them, hiding the beauty of the finally-healthy red-twigged dogwood. But what most intrigued me as I yanked their little bodies out of the soil was the magnificence of their root system which seemed to connect the entire bed together by an intricate, hidden, underground mesh.
It seemed, for a moment, that I was holding a piece of God’s amazing creation in the palm of my hand.
I still pulled the whole root out and threw it away, but for that moment I loved its intricate beauty and I imagine that’s what God wanted me to see: that even a weed has some beauty to it, reflecting his creation imagination.
He constantly teaches me, soothes me, shows me, as I sit with Him in the chaos of my garden.