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Lessons from a Wanna-Be Gardener

One of my neighbors told me once that she is a Master Gardener. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded legit. Now realizing there were actual levels to this, I was sure I could better qualify for titles such as “Wanna-Be” or “Imposter Gardner.” 

Each Spring, I drag my daughters down the side of our yard to our hugely overgrown garden beds and lovingly coerce the girls to help me clean them out, mix in our compost and (not-so-delicately) plant our produce– carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.

Then I fuss over the roses and consider for the umpteenth time if I like the placement of my shrubs and flowers in the front of the house. Apparently, I have commitment issues when it comes to plants. But hey, we’re getting vitamin D and exercise, we’re growing our own food, I’m teaching them to care for our earth… we probably should start filming our own YouTube channel. 

Once I’m worn out from all the Instagram selfies, I’m ready to kick back and watch these babies grow. But I’ll be honest, every year on cue you can see my shocked face when I walk down to see our beloved sprouts and, much to my horror, grass and weeds are already setting into my beds. This mood-boosting, stress-relieving, highly relaxing activity now feels like a lot of… well, work.

Funny enough, the Bible tells us that is exactly what it is.

God said that Adam’s very purpose in the garden of Eden was to work it. 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15

All this work talk gives me pause. I wonder, how am I going to keep my promise to all these plants? If I ignore the weeds, is there any possibility they’ll just go away on their own? Do they really need water every day? Is there any hope for a “Wanna-Be Gardener” like me?

I think there is. There are lessons that our gardens have to teach us amateurs. Lessons like these…

Yep, Water Every day.

I’m convinced I can skip a day here and there. Isn’t there an every-other-day rule in the book somewhere? But my plants stubbornly insist on water. And, if deprived, they will act all dramatic and wilt on me as if I’m withholding what they need most. Same with sunlight (who knew?)

This plant law provides a strangely close parallel to how my spiritual life suffers when I don’t drink from God’s Word. Try as I might to carry on without staying connected to God as my primary source of sustenance, signs of wilting are inevitable. Whether I’m less loving, more easily angered, or just less aware of God’s promptings in my life, the previous fruit begins to shrivel. I’m reminded once more that this is a daily thing.

Pull the Next Weed. 

When weeds get overwhelming and I don’t think I can keep up, I can quickly become a Garden School Dropout.

Elisabeth Elliot, a Christian author and missionary, reminds me to Do the Next Thing in this classic poem, which in this case means simply: pull the next weed.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

I sometimes wince at the word immediately because I know it requires some sacrifice and long-term grit on my part. But I rest in those final words of the poem. The results are God’s. All I have to do is pull the next weed.

Embrace a Do-It-Again Mindset.

If you know me at all, you know there is one thing I hate: an ongoing commitment. I love the idea of gardening… or I did back in March. Now I’m onto getting a puppy. Shoot, that’s an ongoing commitment too…

Does anyone else struggle with the weeding again part? 

GK Chesterton gives me a bigger vision for when gardening (or any area of my life) feels like Groundhog’s Day:

“Because children have abounding vitality…. they always say, “Do it again” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be an automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately but has never got tired of making them.”

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I can prune roses and pull weeds and water vegetables and do all the things again… because God does it again.

While I may not ever be a Master Gardener, I know there’s more growth happening through all that work than just in the garden. 

Looking for more encouragement in the challenging but important work of parenting? Nathan & Rachel Tiemeyer share 4 Practical ways to Pass Our Faith to the Next Generation.