Gardens

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Lines are beginning to form at plant nurseries and gardening supply stores. Just as New Year’s encourages us to make resolutions for good change in our lives, spring usually brings good intentions of thicker, greener grass, well trimmed bushes, and more color and variety in the flowers of our yards.

But just like resolutions, those goals are not easily met or a onetime decision. We have to be persistent and intentional about what we plant, how we nurture its growth, and how we protect it from things that threaten its survival. Gardens do not happen by accident. They are intentionally planted by someone who owns them and takes responsibility for them. Gardens are not self-sustaining; they must be tended by someone who makes them prosperous and abundant. They require just the right amount of food, water and sunshine. They are susceptible to bugs, weeds, diseases and pests. With the right care, gardens will never stop yielding fruit, but that care often requires pruning and fertilization.

The success of the garden is often dependent on the knowledge of the gardener. He must understand, not just the plant, but the seed, the soil, the bugs and pests, diseases and fungi that might threaten the plants and the fruit. Gardeners have total control over the location of the garden and the vines and the branches and plants that live there; the only power these have over the gardener is whether or not they bring him pleasure. Anything he believes impedes the crop of his garden, he will uproot or destroy. He must know exactly when to plant and harvest and how to weed and prune in order to assure a healthy abundant crop. He does whatever is necessary to produce healthy plants so that those healthy plants can produce abundant fruit.

Why is it that we have to work so hard to keep plants healthy, but weeds seem to thrive on neglect? No one plants crab grass or dandelions, yet suburban homeowners have to intentionally nurture their grass and diligently battle the weeds that threaten it. Desired crops seem to need constant attention and care and supplements, while weeds seem to grow strong and tall and reproduce under conditions that can kill what is intentionally planted.

What is true of plants is also true of each of us. I have never really tried to plant weeds in my life. I have never intentionally nurtured sin and helped it to grow; I just didn’t eradicate it before it exerted its influence over me. I didn’t study temper tantrums techniques to make sure I was able to throw one well. I have never had to make a conscious decision to be angry with someone. Never have I struggled to be proud when I so wanted to be humble. We don’t have to teach selfishness or disobedience to our children. Why is it that bad language comes to mind so much more quickly than kind words? Why does spreading gossip make us feel superior? These weeds are not things we necessarily seek, but they can become habits that take root in our hearts. These are traits that thrive on neglect; the more we neglect them, the more deeply rooted they become. Just as a beautiful green lawn requires special attention for the good grass and intentional destruction of the weeds, so it is with God’s word in our hearts. The weeds of this world will choke out the power of God’s words in our hearts if we are not attentive to both.

Grubs, gophers, caterpillars, locusts, moles, rabbits and deer are all well known threats to gardeners. That same dirt that contains the life of the seed will also either feed or starve the weeds and pests that threaten it. These pests feed on the plant and destroy it in the process. Sometimes pests kill the plant; sometimes they eat the leaves and or blooms and fruit of the plant. Either way, the plant does not thrive and produce. Just as moles or caterpillars or grubs attack a plant, killing its roots or stripping its leaves or blooms, Satan has dedicated himself to destroying God’s relationship with his children. He is the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and a deceiver (II John 1:7). He will inflate or destroy our self worth, or bombard us with worry and frustration and fear that will separate us from God if we allow it to. Satan doesn’t play fair. He will attack us in the most painful, tender places of our hearts, and he glories in our fall. He has no power over God, so he attacks those that God loves. His goal for our lives is our humiliation and shame and destruction. He may work through other people to hurt us, he may use situations to tempt us, he may attack us directly, but our obedience to God will protect us and bring us victory, no matter the circumstances. If Satan can’t destroy us completely, he will happily settle for destroying our ability to bear fruit.

To help us understand the character of God, Jesus described him as a gardener (John 15:1). God intentionally plants opportunities in our lives so that we can become more healthy and more holy, bearing spiritual fruit that he requires. He separates us from “weeds” that inhibit our spiritual growth. He adds things to our lives that will deepen our relationship with him. He protects us from evil that threatens to destroy us. He knows that seeds do not become harvest overnight, and he is patient with us as we grow into the people he created us to be.

A gardener is judged by the appearance and harvest of his garden. This day, may you trust the one who knows your future. May you obey his plan and seek his protection in a world that threatens your righteousness, and may you bloom and bear fruit in such a way that brings him pleasure and glory.

(much of this blog post was taken from my book “He Wants You to Know” – available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com)

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