This week, I was sitting with my husband on my patio, admiring our backyard. For several months now, I have been working on my flower garden (a project I took on during quarantine), which has required a lot of manual labor and patience. He looked around from one end of the garden to the other end and asked, “What’s your plan with all these plants when winter comes?” I responded with, “That’s a good question!” in hopes he would say, “Will you need a greenhouse?” A greenhouse aside, the process of growing my garden has brought me so much more than a beautiful backyard; it has spiritually grounded me.
At the beginning of quarantine, I chose this project to focus on something other than the current situation triggering and bringing me a wave of emotions. I decided to spend more time outdoors. Looking at my backyard at first, all it was was an empty space with no design. As I spent time out there, I began to see the potential for growth and beauty. I prepped the dirt, removed weeds, planted, and orchestrated where each plant should go. As I did this, I had a sense of control, peace of mind, and a release for my artistic side. Though gardening requires time, energy, resources, and lots of love and patience, I saw how the more time I spent outside working, the more the garden transformed as it grew and came together beautifully.
Gardening taught me so much about my spiritual life. Every day while working on my garden, I would meditate and examine my heart and state of mind. I realized that the work God wants to do in me has a lot of similarities with the work I was doing. Like plants, we similarly go through the seasons of growth, performance, cutting off things that are hindering our maturity, and enduring difficult situations in our lives. Sometimes that process is difficult, but I know now that it is also necessary for true spiritual growth to happen.
The daily visual transformations I saw as the plants grew, matured and bloomed gave me a sense of accomplishment and brought me unmeasurable joy. I know God feels the same as he watches his work bring transformation in me. To bring transformation into me, I took the approach of letting God orchestrate my life. I intentionally started to focus on the things that I could manage and enjoy right at the present moment. I let him lead me to get up early to read my Bible and listen to music out on the patio, helping me forget all the chaos happening around me. He helped me focus on things that I can do to become a better person, as Paul reminds the Philippians:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
As Paul encourages us, focusing on what is good can make a big difference to our internal growth. Shifting even the little, negative things in our minds and focusing on the good can make a big difference. Doing so shifts and refocuses our minds, bringing it to a healthy state, where God can do his best work. No matter what is going on around us, Jesus is the Master Gardener orchestrating everything and bending it together for our own good. We have to trust that His plans are bigger and better. He loves us, cares for us, and will provide what’s needed to grow if we are willing to go through the process.
Although my gardening rewards have been amazing, it isn’t the garden that’s the most important. Sure, I enjoy the lunches and dinners with my family outside, and my morning coffees and evening talks under the lights with my husband, but those joys don’t compare to the rewards of God’s work. When we focus on our spiritual life and let God transform our lives, we receive pure joy. This world and its pleasures fade, no matter how beautiful they are now. It is the internal work that lasts. As David reminds us:
“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But for everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Psalm 103:15
This tells me that as much effort, energy, resources, and love I put into my garden, it will come to an end this winter (if I don’t put those plants in a greenhouse). All the work my hands have done only brings temporary satisfaction. However, if I put God first and obey his commands, I will enjoy the process of his work in me throughout life here on earth (however long that may be) and eternity. There will also be ongoing rewards that will benefit the following generations.
My prayer for you, and me, is that you will develop an intimate relationship with Christ, the gardener, right where you are. Through his work, whatever season of life you are in, the Holy Spirit will be with you, guide you and protect you all the way until He calls you to His presence. The work you let him do will transform you now, will be with you for eternity, and will leave a legacy here. God has a garden to grow in you.
Serving Him Together,