Squash, tomatoes, string beans, more squash, lettuce, cucumbers, and more squash – these are a few of my favorite things! And they better be, at least right now! The harvest from my garden plot has started to come in and I have to say, there’s nothing like fresh vegetables from the garden!
This is the first garden I’ve been able to have in several years. When you live in a parsonage, you don’t always have places to grow much more than a few tomato plants. But this year I tilled a small plot, about 18 feet by40 feet, of that wonderful red clay we all enjoy, turned in some compost from the Elrod farm, laid out five rows, and set out some seeds.
The thing about a garden is this: you have to tend it, regularly. I usually get up very early, and when Cynthia gets up she will find me either upstairs in my study, or out in the garden. There’s always something to do, weeding, watering, or one of several other small tasks.
Several years ago I was visiting with a member who was a master gardener. We were admiring her many plants when I suggested she could help me plan a flower garden. But, I insisted, it will need to require low maintenance, since I have very little time to devote to it.
My friend stopped, looked at me and said something I guess everyone knows, but it was something that stuck with me. She said, “If there is going to be a garden, there has to be a gardener.”
Duh! It reminds me of the old preacher joke. A minister stopped to speak with a farmer who had just cut hay in a beautiful field. Before the farmer had purchased the land, the field had been full of briars and cockleburs. The preacher said, “Tis a beautiful pasture Robert. God has provided you a wonderful place.” And Robert replied, “Preacher, you should have seen this place when God had it all by himself!”
For anything to grow well, there must be someone to tend the growth, to prepare the soil and nurture the plants, to invest him or herself through “sweat equity,” and to lovingly provide the daily attention that is needed. We could name many areas of life where this is true: parenting, friendships, teaching, growing a business, or growing a church.
The area I’m thinking about today is the hidden garden, the spiritual garden of our hearts. Is your hidden garden being tended in such a way that it is producing, or will produce the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5)?
You are the gardener of the Hidden Garden of your heart. Yes, there are those who help: Sunday School teachers, pastors, spiritual counselors, and Christian friends. Yes, we are promised that the Spirit of Christ will empower and guide us. But if there is to be a garden, and not just a field of brambles inside us, it means we have to bring intentionality and regular attention to what grows there.
Haphazard care just won’t get the job done. If we garden only when it’s convenient, the lack of attention will readily show, just as soon as a little stress is added. But if the Hidden Garden is tended well, then what a beautiful offering it becomes to the One who created it in the first place. In fact, the Hidden Garden of the heart may be the only thing we really have that we can give back to our Lord. And who knows, if well-tended, the harvest of blessings may be more than we can handle, just like the squash!