Before getting married, you couldn't pay me to go outside and dig in the dirt. It's called "dirt" for a reason - it is dirty! Once we moved into our own home, though, I really wanted flowers in our front landscape and we agreed we would like to have a vegetable garden. Getting dirt under my nails quickly became inevitable. But I have learned that I don't mind it as much as I thought I would, because during my time spent in the garden, I have discovered 6 wonderful things about God.
1 | God meets us when we slow down
One of my favorite activities is sitting down in the garden to work, even if I am just pulling weeds and not planting or harvesting, because the moment I sit down, I feel the weight of the day lifted from my shoulders. Whenever I take some time by myself in the garden, I like to let my thoughts wander and before I know it, God meets me there in the stillness.
I think He waits for us to slow down and notice He is always there. Do you ever find yourself rushing through the day, only to climb in bed at night and realize you forgot to pray even once that day? Or maybe your mind is racing as soon as you wake up and you're already putting together a to-do list, but there's just not enough time for quiet time? Oh, me too, dear friend, me too.
Sometimes, I imagine my heart as a secret garden of sorts. It's where God waits for me every day and it's where we can steal away for quiet time together. So when I'm in my actual garden, I know God meets me there, too. He brings the secret garden I've imagined to life and we commune right there in the midst of weeds and vegetable plants and dirty hands. And isn't that what He ultimately wants from us, to bring ourselves to Him, dirty hands and all?
2 | God is the Gardener of our lives
There are some days when I just have a really bad day spiritually. Maybe you know where I'm going with this. Not only have I forgotten to pray and made to-do lists before quiet time, but I haven't even visited my real garden and I can just feel the weeds growing up all around. They surround my tomato plants, and they surround my heart, dragging me down and letting in sin.
But God is like the gardener who faithfully tends his plants. He gently pulls the weeds out by the roots, and he lovingly waters his garden, his pride and joy. In the same way, God faithfully cares for us, His children. He will gently make us aware of our sin and help to pull it out of our lives. He lovingly gave us the only Living Water in the form of Jesus. He cares for us, for His garden, because we are His pride and joy. God is the Master Gardener.
3 | Weeds don't just grow in the garden - they grow in our lives, too
I really loathe weeds. I mean, where do they even come from? And how can there be so many?? They just keep coming back! Maybe you can relate. But God has been teaching me during our garden time that He made it clear to Adam & Eve that growing food from the ground wouldn't be easy:
17 ...through painful toil you will eat food from [the ground]
all the days of your life
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
Genesis 3: 17-18
He wasn't kidding, in case you were wondering. The thorns and thistles are the weeds that we spend hours pulling today. Our garden literally has thistles, and those are the most painful and difficult weeds to pull. Ironic...or maybe not!
Still, I am continually amazed at how quickly weeds come back, and how rapidly they can spread. Have you ever thought about sin that way? Our sin can be like weeds in how it spreads and takes over our hearts and minds. Self-doubt smothers self-confidence. Jealousy stomps out friendship. Gluttony breeds guilt. Lust destroys love. It goes on from there.
Thank goodness we have a Gardener to help us defeat sin and remove the weeds threatening our hearts!
4 | God's plan is not always the same as ours - it is better
When Adam & Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from the Garden of Eden (the very first garden!), God said to them,
Cursed is the ground because of you.
I was never really sure what He meant, until we planted spinach this year. It was our first attempt at growing a leafy green to eat. We read that spinach could survive a frost, so we direct seeded (aka planted outside) in early March. I knew the germination time could be up to a couple of weeks, so I waited. And waited, checking for sprouts every few days. I was disappointed every time. Soon, a few weeks had passed and nothing happened. I was so bummed!
The verse from Genesis came to mind, though, and I began to realize this is what God meant. Everything you plant will not be fruitful, because the ground is cursed by human sin. Our world is broken by sin, so the same is often true in our daily lives & our plans.
But God reminded me that His ways are higher than my ways - Isaiah 55:9. As I was preparing our garden beds for new vegetables a few weeks later, I pulled a weed that I suddenly realized didn't quite look like a weed. I gasped and shouted with joy, It's spinach! I was thrilled. God had shown me in the simplest of ways that His plan is always perfect.
5 | Growing a garden is like cultivating a walk with God
Deciding to start a garden is no small feat. It takes planning, resources, preparation, implementation, and lots of care. It takes a dedicated amount of time and a committed heart. But it is so worth it! Making a decision to follow Jesus is much the same. It takes a commitment to getting to know Him, a discipline to read the Bible, and a willingness to learn obedience to His will. And He is completely worth it.
A garden has to be nurtured daily; God desires that we meet with Him daily in prayer and in His Word. A garden cannot be neglected for a week and still grow at the same rate without proper nutrients and attention; neither can a relationship with Jesus grow at the same rate without continual interaction and trust. Just as growing a garden is worth every second, so is cultivating a walk with God.
6 | Like a garden, God is forgiving
Life gets busy. We all know this to be true, usually from personal experience. It has happened more than we would like to admit that we have accidentally neglected our garden for more than a few days, simply because we were too busy! Even though it hadn't grown well and weeds had taken over, our garden made a beautiful comeback. With a little attention and nurturing, our garden forgives us always.
God is the same way, only better. When life gets busy, we neglect our walk with God. That has happened more than I would care to admit, too. The weeds of my sin take over. It is easy to feel like I have let things get too far out of control, just like I have felt with my garden before. It seems like I may never get it back where it was before, but I am willing to try anyway.
Then I turn to find Jesus waiting with open arms. His Living Water refreshes my parched soul, and He lovingly helps me find and remove the weeds of sin surrounding my heart. His forgiveness sets me free.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever - Hebrews 13:8. Because of that, He forgives me for my sins time and time again. When I realize I have turned away and let the garden of my heart become overgrown, I can be confident that I will turn back to find my Gardener welcoming me with open arms.
He's there to welcome you, too. Leave your prayer requests in the comments, or send them to me directly here.
In His grace,