Friday, May 18, 2007

Of Gardens and Housework and Souls

There have been many springs that I have thought longingly about how wonderful it would be to have a garden, but it just didn’t make sense when renting another’s property. But I didn’t allow myself to pine after the thought too long telling myself that a garden would just be one more thing to consume my time. Hence, I’ve surprised myself this spring at just how excited I am at finally being able to have my own land to garden. I was wondering at why the concept of gardening was so overwhelmingly satisfying to me compared to so many of the other duties of housework, and I came up with a reason.

In gardening, the benefits you reap are so much greater than the little time and effort that is required.
This last week there has been no question in my mind about what I would rather do, be outside planting my plants or inside sweeping the floor or ironing. There is this tedium to sweeping the floor that can become so disillusioning after awhile. It will just need to swept again after the next meal and what did it matter if it’s just going to get dirty again. The reward is so fleeting. You don’t have the satisfaction of saying, there, that job is done; I won’t have to do that again for awhile. Those shirts are just going to need to get ironed again in a few weeks. But ahhh, gardening. I put this pretty little perennial in the ground, it only takes a few minutes, and year after year it is going to grow and flower and spread. A little bit of watering, a little weeding, and this plant just keeps on giving. If there’s an out-of-context verse in the Bible to justify everything, mine for this week would be Proverbs 24:27: Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. That’s what I’ve been doing.

The tedious tasks that mothers perform over and over that constantly need to be redone are not so immediately rewarding. We look to a distant reward through faith. We choose to believe that our choice to feed our kids breakfast rather than having them eat at daycare or a before-school program is a choice that will reap eternal rewards. We choose to believe that those little tasks are important to God even though they aren’t important in others’ eyes. And we choose to believe that God always rewards obedience even when the rewards aren’t immediate. But because this is the nature of our work, it is refreshing to do something different.

I am fascinated by the concept that these plants are just going to keep growing without my constant supervision. I can actually leave and go somewhere and they are fine without me. I can have a life apart from them and they’ll be okay. Even if I move away, they may be neglected by the next people and not look as nice as they could, but there will from now on be a lovely lilac bush by the side of the house. For springs to come, a lovely smell with come wafting in the open living room window.

It doesn’t bother me to think that no one knows for sure how long they will live in any one place. We plan on being here for several years, but I know something could happen and we could have to move sooner. But it is the sheer likelihood and hope of permanence that makes a garden such an enticing prospect.

My kids want to plant an apple tree in the backyard. They know it will be a few years till it starts producing fruit, but they are captivated by the anticipation of apples anyhow.

We are coming to this yard with an absolutely blank slate (ignoring the legion of weeds). There is not one tree, not one perennial, not one plant in the whole front and back of this yard with the exception of one sad evergreen bushy thing that is not particularly lovely. It kind of looks like a small tree with the top half cut off. But the wonderful thing about it is that now we have this opportunity to transform it. It just doesn’t seem as rewarding to come to someone else’s garden and try to keep it up, although I wouldn’t have minded. But to be able to go from a horrible, weedy, trashy yard to something beautiful is so much more satisfying. So we are looking forward in the years to come to watching these small beginnings grow into something satisfying and fill the yard with beauty.

It reminds me of how God works on us. If we came to him with any beauty or merit of own, it would take away from God the opportunity for him to display his miraculous powers of transformation. But we come to him barren of fruit, full of weeds, thorns, gravel. He somehow takes our hearts and transforms them into something lovely, productive, and beautiful. But it all takes time. I went through the whole yard front and back soaking those weeds in weed killer and they are slowly wilting, but it wasn’t overnight. I used the whole gallon and I think I will have to buy more and go back and give some weeds a second dousing. Sin doesn’t always die easily either. Sometimes you think you’ve dug it up by the root, but you find it was quietly growing without your knowledge. And the beautiful plants don’t come into full bloom immediately either. My Hydrangea is only a few sticks, my lilac bush is only three feet, my rose only has one bloom. But over time they will grow more and more beautiful.

I have heard people try to say that a weed is any plant that you don’t want growing in a particular place. I think this is too simplistic of a definition even though I understand the point it’s getting at. The definition fails to explain how hardy and reproductive the useless ugly plants are and how frail and difficult the beautiful and the fruit-bearing plants are. When you go by a vacant lot, you would be hard-pressed to find anything that you’d want to dig up and plant in your yard. You only hope there aren’t any vacant lots too close spreading their impossibly resilient seeds over to your yard.

It is the same with our lives. Everything that comes naturally and second nature to us is from sin. If we neglect our souls, we will find ugliness everywhere, for it grows without any attention or effort whatsoever. The traits that bear fruit in our lives are from the Spirit and are come by only with difficulty. But by faith we believe that, like gardening, we will reap so much more than we sow when we sow in the Spirit.

Mark 4:20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

1 comment: said...

Beautiful thoughts. Thanks for your blog--I enjoy it a lot.