May 15, 2023
Spring is almost here. As we shake the frost off this winter season, I find myself already dreaming of my garden. Pulling out my supply of flower and vegetable seeds, I look at that untilled dirt in my backyard like a blank canvas. Blank, but certainly not new. It is a canvas my family has been painting upon with palettes of squash yellow and cucumber green for over a century.
When I moved back to my family’s farm two years ago, keeping a garden was a practice I was eager to return to. I grew up in Dirt Town Valley where most folks keep a small garden to share with their family and friends; where exchanging seeds, plans, and dreams with neighbors is a deep part of the community. I picked the spot where my Paw Paw always kept his garden, but that first season just about the only colors on the canvas were bright green clumps of weeds and the brown plants they had choked out. I was so discouraged by so many dead and withering plants, with only a few hearty tomatoes surviving to harvest. The next season, the soil had been worked a little more and the crop was more bountiful - except for my tomatoes. I got the dreaded horn worm and they did not survive. Despite my failed attempts, I now find myself right back where I started, making another plan for another year and planting seeds with hope - hope for reaping a better harvest and becoming a better farmer.
Gardening often teaches us things of the soul. When we connect to God’s creation and His work, He reveals His world to us. I have learned so much from gardening, mostly related to how little in this life I can actually control. I put the seeds in the ground and I hope and pray they come to fruition, knowing so much depends on weather, insects, and providence. It’s a miracle, honestly. To bury something deep in the earth, watch it sprout out and (hopefully) take life; life sustained Divinely, and life that nourishes our own lives. We surrender to something bigger than ourselves, we realize we can’t bring forth harvest but by the hand of God and His perfect timing.
Much truth about our spiritual lives can be found in the simple act of planting seeds in our gardens. We can be faithful to plant, but we have not the power to bring forth fruit. Perhaps you can relate. Someone plants seeds in you throughout your life but your heart has been like that hardened soil, stubborn to refuse the goodness. Or perhaps you have prayed or suffered with someone who has lost their way and you feel like the weeds are winning, choking out or making it hard to see any goodness has been sown. This can be weary making, leading us to focus on failures rather than God’s faithfulness, but we simply must not give up HOPE! Hope is rooted not in the fruit we see or the weeds we don’t see, but in enduring confidence in the Great Gardener who is the only true bringer of life. For this reason, I desire to be hopeful to the point of foolishness. When the world says give up, when there are weeds as far as the eye can see, I long to keep going, keep believing, keep hoping. We must endure, continuing to sow seeds and receive seeds; seeds of unconditional love, kindness, and faithfulness. May this be our prayer as we kneel in our gardens this Spring, that we be faithful to sow good seeds in others and recognize also the seeds that have been sown in us.