May 28, 2014

Partnering With God in the Garden

The Bible uses agriculture to teach dozens of lessons to mankind.  Allegories and stories swirl though my mind, add to that my love of gardening, and the stage is set   Yesterday I was gazing at the Back to Eden Garden whilst sipping coffee and felt the Lord's sweet presence.  I realized that my life, like my B2E Garden, is a partnership with the Lord.  That might not seem Earth shattering but walk this path with me, perhaps the Lord will bless you in the journey.

Several years ago, my original perennial garden was absolutely full.  To continue to add plants would have moved it from a garden to a collection of plants.  I turned my attention to a sun baked spot in the back yard where even the grass and weeds struggled to grow and determined it was the perfect spot for a vegetable garden.  I trudged out there one February morning and began the arduous process of double digging the patch.  Holy Cow, this soil was a mess.  Silt on top where a stream has once run, light yellow compaction full of every tree root that had been left in the clearing of the lot, and underneath saturated red clay that weighed 20 lbs a shovelful.  It was brutal work.  This plot represents our lives before Christ, our flesh.  There is no good thing in it.  We have been baked by the sun where even weeds struggle to thrive.  Our sin runs like dead tree roots and we are weighed down in our spirits like the soaked red clay.

As I dug, the neighbors dogs barked... and barked... and barked.  I became madder by the minute.  Garden time was supposed to be peaceful and full of life and relaxation - this was filthy, muddy, stumbling work punctuated by yapping.  Finally, after two hours, I threw down my shovel and stormed up the street.  The clueless neighbor was no doubt shocked at my appearance at her door, sweaty in the February brisk air, liberally smeared with dirt, hair gone wild in the wind.  She gave me a rather confused look and mumbled, "I wondered what they were barking at..."  This did little to calm my ire but I stomped away to relative quiet.  The dogs in the story, well they are the demons and naysayers who like to condemn, gossip, and torment us.  They were sounding the alarm that good work was being done in my backyard.  Barred from the property, they could do nothing but make noise and aggravate.

The job I assumed to be a day or two, turned into three full weekends.  Having read that turning the clay and letting it sit in the weather would help to turn it into good soil.  I waited.  Weeds began to thrive, clods of clay baked in the winter sun and turned into terra cotta pottery.  I spayed weed killer all over the pile of dirt and waited a little longer.  April came and I brought in 20 bags of top soil, compost, and manure.   I sprayed the weeds again.  This phase is like the person who thinks if they dig down and unearth all the bad things in their lives that the airing out of everything will turn them into good soil, instead they are exposed, grow weeds, and certain parts of them harden like pottery.  They bring in pretty dressing that they buy and haul it in arduously spreading and augmenting the soil.  This temporarily covers the mess and for a little while it looks like mission accomplished.  To the outside world, hard work and money have accomplished the desired results.  Until the weeds start to emerge.  

Finally the time came to plant.  Most of the plants were purchased at the nursery but a few seeds were sown.  A few weeks later, a light dusting of pine straw covered the soil and the result was glorious.  I was so excited.  This was prior to my Abigail and Dolley days but I wrote extensively about how excited I was.  I companion planted everything and eagerly awaited the results, which were fantastic... at first.  This represents what we can do on our own, through hard work and money.  We can try and force what we want in our lives.  We sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor and investment.

Then, the last blog written that year is titled, "The Dog Days of Summer".  The unrelenting sun beat down, the rain did not fall, the weeds took over, the pests moved in, and everything fell apart.  I vowed that I would hold back the forces through hard work and recounted a five hour day in the sun pulling back the mulch and fighting the weeds, to no avail. This is where we vow to keep it together, that our hard work WILL pay off through sheer force of will but in the end the forces beyond our control beat down upon us and devour what we have tried to do.  These are the businessmen you see at dinner who can not put down their blackberry long enough to have a conversation with their colleague sitting across the table.  When it is up to you to keep your head above the waves.

In the end, the garden baked to stalks.  I took no picture of this desolation, we do not show off our failures.  We don't document and share pictures, we hide them and hope no one will ask.   My hard work, my money, my time was for naught but toil.  This represents a life lived our way, by our own efforts, and minus the blessings of the Lord.  I doubled down the next year.  I hired a man with a big tiller and had 40 bags brought in.  The results were the same.  Sadly, I repeated this process for two more years before abandoning the entire enterprise as a money pit of toil.  This is the epitome of just working harder, just try harder, just pour more money into it - if it fails it is because YOU have failed.

Years passed and I began to once again speak of my desire for a vegetable garden.  My husband suggested that he would build me one as my Christmas present.  I was as excited as ever but this excitement was tempered by my previous bad experiences.  I determined that this time would be different and I began researching what was new in vegetable gardens.  The Lord led me to the Back To Eden Garden Film and I was enthralled.  This is gardening done God's way, with His methods, and is blessings - without the toil and the hard work I always associated with vegetable gardening and with a blessed return on my investment which would get better with age.
Back To Eden Garden the First Spring
The difference is day and night.  We did not garden in the same spot, which was still sun baked and barren.  This new garden is huge, triple the original plot, and full of periods of shade from the unrelenting Carolina sun.  Yes, it still took time, hard work, and money but there is a partnership in this endeavor that was missing before.  Most of the plants thriving in the garden were grown from seeds instead of purchased transplants.  The weeds are few and can be plucked with a small pinch and a tug.  The wood chips hold the water from the rain and the plants are thriving.  I look upon the creation and I realize that there is a harmony in this garden as there needs to be in our lives.  I am doing my part and God is blessing the efforts.  I do not know if the harvest will be as magnificent as the young plants signal, after all it is up to God to continue to protect and to grow the plants.  We are a small family and it will be more than we can possibly consume or store, so we plan to bless others with the bounty.  I rest in the assurance that past experience don't always dictate future results, especially when you do it God's way.