I’ve never been much of a gardener. In Papua New Guinea this was confirmed when I was helping weed a garden, only to look back and see a couple of kids carefully replanting much of what I had pulled out. I obviously didn’t know my weeds from other plants.
I might have possibly grown a few sweet potatoes in the fertile hillsides of PNG but planting was under strict supervision and the finished product was brought to my door already removed from the ground so whether or not they were from my sweet potato mounds or if they were just my friend’s generous gift to my fragile ego, I will never know.
But with this great track record I decided to try my hand at planting a few things behind our home. One of the great perks to this place is our nice little patio and yard area. We can have friends over and enjoy the sunshine, sleep outside on an air mattress and there is a little bricked off garden plot that I was told I could use.
And so this is how my garden began. I had a few bags of soil, some seeds and a few plants and was determined to make it work. I spent a whole morning just digging up old roots and softening the ground. I had somehow tricked myself into thinking that once I got down below the firm surface, the digging would get easier. But instead I just encountered more roots and harder ground.
Since I was alone with the dirt and my thoughts, as I dug, I contemplated these roots as a metaphor for my heart and life. Many years ago I read the book Inside Out by Larry Crabb (I think it was this book but it’s been so long it might have been another one). But anyway a book by Larry Crabb was read and one of the nuggets that has stuck with me is this idea that we often deal with sin by working on only the manifestations that can be seen. We cut off the thorns but we don’t often dig down to the roots. So instead of dealing with the actual problem, we are dealing with the symptoms. This feels like it helps at first but we notice that it doesn’t really ultimately change anything.
I could have just added some more soil to the top of the planter and hidden the hardened dirt below. But that wouldn’t have allowed the good roots of the new plants to take hold. I first needed to dig out the old roots and soften the soil. In gardening this is painful and I had blisters to prove it. In life this is painful but fortunately we heal much stronger when this process is done with the Holy Spirit.
My garden is now slowly growing. Some of the seeds I planted never even sprouted (i’m not sure if that fits the metaphor or just means that i’m still a poor gardener) but we’re happy about the ones that have. We’ve enjoyed a few meals with these herbs as tasty additions. And today I re-dug an unused area and planted some flowers that will hopefully bloom and be beautiful. There were still some old roots that needed to be pulled out but the ground wasn’t nearly has hard as it was originally.
And that’s the wonderful thing about gardens, there will always be work, weeds will sprout, the plants need water but once you start, the good plants will grow and blossom and that is your reward. It’s the same with our lives, once we start digging down, we can remove some of the roots and slowly reveal the more stubborn ones. We’re never going to be fully complete, there will always be room for new plants and pruning but once we truly tend the soil underneath, there is hope in the new growth.