I have always loved nice gardens. Don't tell anyone, but as a young boy I enjoyed looking through House & Garden magazines to look at some of the best home gardens anywhere in Australia. I actually enjoyed mowing grass (and still do) in the hope that I can coax it into becoming a lawn. I dreamt of one day having the privilege of owning my home surrounded by well planned and maintained gardens. I'm on my way to fufilling that dream. And the journey is very pleasurable. Every week I work on my garden - planting new plants, pruning existing ones, watering, mowing, trimming, chain-sawing. But recently when my health was under siege I wasn't able to maintain my usual gardening regime and something curious happened that has too many parallels with life generally.
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
After God created, it seems that the first thing He did was to go gardening. After He created Adam, He gave him a job: gardening Eden. Estimates vary, and we can only speculate, about how big Eden was. For most of us, when we hear the word "garden" we think of an area about the size of our home gardens. But Eden was a public garden. Some scholars believe it was several hundred square kilometres in size. We might be better to think of it as a "Botanical Garden" or "Parkland". It's easy to see how Adam would have been kept busy tending to the gardens within Eden in this light! God must have thought that gardening was a noble activity. And I suspect He still does.
But when Adam sinned and fell from his status of perfection and thereby fell into God's grace, the entire nature of gardening was changed by two dramatic factors. Firstly, God's supernatural prevention of weeds was lifted. Secondly, God's supernatural sustaining of mankind's health and life was also lifted. This meant that Adam's job of gardening from that point on was now going to involve toil because of cursed weeds and his newly discovered bothersome physical discomfort and pain.
¶ And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
To think that the Garden of Eden was just about shrubs, trees, watering, and pathways, is the same error as thinking that communication is just about words. The Garden of Eden was the place where God chose to fellowship with man. Gardens are great place for strolling, talking, and renewing. I wonder if God showed Eden to Adam to inspire him about what the whole earth could look like? For all the battles we are having with Global Warming, the original intention for earth as a managed garden is now perhaps more than just a nice idea. It's worth noting that the Sahara and Gobe Deserts are many many times larger than they were due entirely to deforestation and are growing rapidly each year due to a failure to reforest. If they were reforested, they would provide more than enough food to feed the starving of the world, and capture much of the carbon emissions suspected of causing Global Warming.
Eden. A simple Garden. God's "simple", though, is mankind's infinite fascination. Like many things in life such as a good novel, a well directed movie, a Da Vinci painting, a woman, there is more than meets the eye. What meets the eye about Eden is its beauty, tranquillity, colours and sounds. What meets the eye of reflection is its arrangement of complementary groups of plant varieties - the ferns are together near the running water, the tomatoes are near the marigolds, the deciduous trees are positioned to provide maximal sun screening during summer, and the fruit trees all have their fruit accessible for a person standing on the ground. What meets the deeply reflective eye is that the Garden is a metophor for life itself. And this point brings us to my own garden.
"The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible:
The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.
If you don't want paradise, you are not human;
and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." -Thomas More
My momentary lapse of good health prevented me from doing my regular gardening. While passers-by would not have noticed, I did. And this is what I saw all through my front lawn-
These cute little daisy-like white flowers were all through my front lawn. But the cute little white daisy-like flowers are just a sinister cover for their dastardly deception. "Bellis Perennis" or "Bruisewort" has a root system which causes it to spread quickly through a lawn - underground. Its cute little daisy flowers disguise its real motive: kill your lawn and take over where once you had grass. My brief lapse in gardening now means that I have a huge job ahead of me.
¶ "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:1 NLT
Jesus described His Father as the Gardener (John 15:1). In the same passage, He describes us as being His Father's garden (John 15:4). Gardens were close to the Carpenter's heart. In Jesus' darkest hour, He went to a Garden to be with His Father (Luke 18:1). When Jesus died, He chose to be buried in a Garden (Jn. 19:41). Because we are a spiritual 'garden', we can learn from natural gardens and what's involved in making them healthy.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
Our lives are a garden. What we sow in our life-garden we will also reap (Gal. 6:7). In order for the ornamental plants in our soul-garden to be beautified and fragrant, they must be pruned and shaped (Jn. 15:4). We must also take care to keep our heart-garden free from weeds (especially the weed of bitterness and offense (Heb. 12:15). And what every good garden needs most is regular attention. At the end of each day I am now spending time pulling out the Bruisewort from my front lawn. I now have empty patches where I once had grass. Of course, I can't just pull weeds out and leave my lawn area bare in the hope that grass will grow there. In the same way, I can't stop one bad habit (like wasting too much time online) in the mere hope that a good habit (like reading the Scriptures daily) will automatically replace it.
He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man."
Gardens can teach us much about the life God wants for us. My garden teaches me that my life can become whatever I am prepared to plant in it. What are you intentionally (or perhaps unintentionally) sowing and planting in your life? My life can grow into the life God wants me to live if I am prepared to let The Gardener prune me and put smelly fertilizer around my life. Of course, The Gardener leaves much of the weeding needed in my life up to me. The same principles apply to our church. Our church is what it is because many people have sown into it and been involved in its planting. It will be what it will be because of what we sow and plant in it now. You can enjoy much fruit from your life in the years to come if you garden well, not just today, but everyday. This is what my garden reminds me of.
And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"