To tend a garden and its soil makes a difference in what is produced and experienced from that garden. There have been times when I’ve experienced the same plot of land to be a source of great beauty and joy. There were rows of vegetable plants that continually produced so much that it fed our family with leftovers to be given to friends and neighbors. Caring for and preparing the soil took a bit of consistent work, but being consistent with short work periods allowed it to become easy and pleasing, especially as desired growth occurred.
There were other times on the same land, when care and preparation didn’t happen. Consequently, the work on that same piece of land became frustrating and felt fruitless. It seemed like I was always trying to catch up but never could. More of my time was given to thinking about what I should do to clean it up and tend it than actually doing something to make it happen. With only sporadic investment, it felt like endless crisis response and management – pulling weeds that became an eyesore, digging out grass that creeped in to take over, and being frustrated with the work because it felt so distant from actually having rows of vegetable plants and flowers.
While in the season of weeds and poorly tended soil, I realized that I was short-circuiting myself. For one thing, my idea (goal, aspiration, vision) of what I was working toward was too small. I kept imagining just getting caught up or returning to a weedless patch of tended soil ready for planting. That by itself wasn’t what I was after, and it certainly wasn’t something I found inspiring. “Just fixing this mess” wasn’t adequate. Instead, I realized that I was really working for something far beyond a cleared piece of land and far more desirable. I was working toward a flourishing garden. So, I began imagining my garden in a way that I could vividly see it and feel how good it felt to be in it. Most importantly, I imagined this while it was still covered with weeds and grass. Second, I decided that it was something that I really wanted, and not something I just thought I should want. If it were the latter, I’d let the grass take over and mow it…but I wanted a garden. And, third, it occurred to me that the idea I was “behind,” which was how it felt, was something I made up. Behind what? And, who says? Instead, I was simply who I was in any given day with a patch of earth as it was, and I was free to decide how I’d like it to be, as well as what I would do in that day.
I came to think and plan more about the flourishing garden even though it wasn’t yet actualized, and I consistently put in time when I could for however long I could. It didn’t have to happen overnight. (Unless, it is a Chia Pet garden, it probably won’t.) It did happen, though!! Along the way I realized that my effort at all stages was just as pleasing and rewarding, largely because I could see the desired outcome and let go of flawed beliefs that I carried.
By the way, the garden is a metaphor for our spiritual life, which is the whole of one’s life. It is easy to just want the weeds gone, but it is more important to see beyond that to what the flourishing garden looks and feels like in the end. What does your life look like as you imagine what you and God desire for it? See and feel it as if it were already. Then, put in some work. You are not “behind” in life. You are in Christ in life. Big difference. All Pilgrims is a place with nice people, but more importantly it is a place and people with many opportunities to connect and grow and serve on the way to new life. Take a class, enjoy a group, serve with the love of Christ. It gives much to celebrate in worship, and the product and beauty will be so much that it overflows to others. Let us seek spiritual formation with intention toward God’s desire for fullness of life for you and us.