Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gardening in Eden, Gardening Now

In Eden the soil was alive with everything needed for growth and vitality.  The soil was not compacted or full of weeds and rocks.  A mist came up and watered the garden every morning and the temperature matched what was needed to bring life and growth to the garden.

Well let me just say, this is not Eden.

The last couple of days as I have worked out in our little garden I have been contemplating the parallels between gardening and spiritual development.  Today it hit 80F.  Now there is 80 and then there is 80 with humidity.  Let me just say I miss, my 105F in the shade, after all, it was a dry heat.  The knowledge that Texas heat and humidity hasn't even hit its stride yet, further adds to the discomfort.  The soil here is a nice thick sludge that you loosen only to have the weight of it compact it again.

I have planted a few things in the garden so far.  The strawberries and onions that were already plants look great.  I have a few potted plants that are doing fine.  The seeds, well so far, I believe they are avoiding growth.  Now, I am not 100% sure.  After all there are some sprouts showing up.  Long thin strands are pushing their way through the soil.  They could be the chives I planted a week and a half ago.  However, these strands are showing up everywhere I did not plant chives, in addition to the occasional blade in the chive square.  The ones that were next to the strawberry plants,  I pulled, taste a lot like grass, but who am I to say that when they show up in the chive square they aren't chives.  So, we play the waiting game.

We have been double digging our garden.  It is a slow process and at times we wonder is it really worth it.  The beds were weeded to varying degrees and I am expecting varying results to follow.  Never mind the vast amount of grass seed that was just hanging out in the soil waiting to germinate in the spring.  The rocks get pulled out, compost and sand gets added in.  We did a soil sample and we took another to the post office today.  Our home test says the soil is a bit alkaline.  So we are adding compost and hoping that the soil itself doesn't kill off our plants until we can get it more in balance.

All this may seem like a lot of work.  In reality it is only a decent amount of work, but I am born in the city so the adjustment may make it feel like a lot of work.  In an age when there are tractors and tillers, why do the work by hand?  There are so many labor saving devices, why not use them?

I have always done my best thinking when I am working or playing outside.  So the work has generated a bit of pondering.  I have to say honestly, my thoughts have been cloudy for quite a while.  I don't feel like I have been away from the city long enough for my thoughts to have fully cleared, or perhaps it is that we have brought enough of the city with us that we add to our problem.  At times, it feels like I am living my life in a deep fog.

So as I have been wading through this fog a few things have become clear.  This gardening is a parable of my life.  The condition of the soil, is much like the condition of my heart.  Now, I have read somewhere that soil can be healed and reclaimed and made wonderful, no matter how bad it's condition originally.  I have not experienced it personally, but I have heard a few stories and I have enough buy in to actually try, even if its a bit of work.

I have also read in the Bible that God can change hearts and heal lives, no matter how bad the condition, He can reclaim the years the locusts have eaten.  Sometimes, it seems like a lot of work for nothing.  Shouldn't there be some sort of quick fix for this tedious process of weeding, removing rocks, watering, aerating the soil?  Yet, I know when I am gardening, I want to feel the soil between my fingers.  I don't want to add to the pollution, and allow some machine to put the energy into it.  I want to be tired and sore when I get done.  I want to personally invest myself into it.  Maybe, it is the same with my heart and God.  Maybe, He wants to draw close and prune and cut and pull weeds and de-rock it and till up my heart.  Would it be strange to suggest that God might want to get some dirt under His nails?  Was that why Jesus came?  Maybe the time spent in relationship is better, then some quick fix.

Rumor has it that tractors are actually part of our soils problem.  I read this amazing article on soil in an old issue of National Geographic.   Funny, how the further we get away from Eden, the more we think we have a solution, a way of doing things better.  God told man to till the ground.  Man comes up with a way to do it with less work.  Man then comes up with a way to get someone else, some place else to do it for him.  Mass production begins.  Mass production is turning our world into a desert.  Having someone else some place else do it, means the price of food goes up.  Now we have to pay the farmer, the harvesters, the gas or diesel for the tractor, and the worker and the shipping to get it to our grocery store.  (For ideas on how to do this another way I recommend the book, Eat Where you Live  by Lou Bendrick.  For those in Fresno, you can get it in the library. )

Could it be that when we try to come up with a better way to do things, it is a sign of our weakness and not a strength.  In an effort to get out of the garden, are we avoiding the lessons that God is trying to teach us about our hearts and our souls?  If I am too busy to sit in the quiet, could I lose out on the ability to slow down and hear the birds, the wind in the leaves and the whisper of that still small voice?

No, its not Eden.

But maybe, God still comes to us in the garden in the cool of the day, but we have out-sourced that job, so we aren't there.  The King of the Universe used to come to the garden to walk and talk with His friends and creation.  His Word claims He does not change.  In our search for a way to do things better, maybe it would be a good idea to try to move back toward the way things were in Eden, instead of away from that ideal toward something we have contrived on our own.  After all, righteousness by faith is about letting God do it His way in our lives.  He lives in us.  It requires a bit of pruning and weeding and pulling up of rocks but it is worth it, because our Gardener is in pursuit of a crop and He will get it unless we pull back and insist on doing it our own way.