Thursday, July 26, 2007

There in God's Garden

I love to create and watch things grow, and I find that my time in the garden is a time with God. Every year I am ready to clean out the flower beds sooner than I should given our weather. In the spring I emerge from the winter doldrums and get started with all of the prepping that needs to happen for the gardens to flourish. I have come to view my flower gardens as a mirror of the people in a congregation. Some things require pruning. Without pruning they will not thrive nearly as well. But I hate pruning because it is hard to get rid of something that is expanding – it seems almost counterintuitive. But without pruning the plant’s energy becomes diffused and is less productive. In the long term, the plant will become tangled or weighed down under all of its efforts. This happens at church when we do not periodically come back to analyze the core of our mission. A good idea goes off in many directions and people add things on along the way, but sometimes we need to step back and say, “ Do we still recognize what we were doing?” Has too much institutionalizing weighed down the program? Are we trying to do too many things at once and are spreading ourselves too thin? Like the plant, are we about to burn ourselves out? So careful pruning must happen.

I have a beautiful patch of white violets. I discovered them as a little clump behind a tree at the back of the property. I carefully dug them up and planted them in a shady spot that I would see and where they could grow more fully. Very enthusiastic plant. Overly enthusiastic. Took over one whole side of the property. Unfortunately, the ferns and hostas were not particularly thrilled with this arrangement. The violets were choking out their ability to rise up and grow. The violets show up first and, without being reminded that they share this space, the ferns and hostas would wither up and die in spite of their own efforts. The violets need limits. Eager, perky, hard-working, but they chase all of the other members of the community away. There are people like this at church too. They don’t just help with something, they own it. They intimidate without even realizing it. They scare off the less outgoing but equally dedicated types. They need to have their energy channeled so that everyone can be a part. Because eventually every year, the violets die back and the only thing that would be left is barren dirt but for creating a space where they can coexist.

Some plants need just the right place to thrive. Finding that place may be a process of trial and error. Patience and nurturing. But you have to know the plant to find where it will be happiest. Reading the tag is not enough. The answer may come over a few seasons, not in an instant. Oh, there will be some plants that just take off right away, but many others that need just the right combination to fit in. When people become a part of our community of believers, some jump right in, while others lay back. It takes time and getting to know them in order to come to a consensus of where they will thrive, what they feel called to be a part of. There is not a sure fire way to discern this. But if you try to make a plant grow where you want it, without considering whether the plant will do well there, you end up with a dead plant. It withers away. So too, if we try to pigeonhole people into our needs without allowing them time to explore.

Sometimes plants are too much of a good thing together in one clump. They need to be divided and spread around. So it is with us, we need to step aside from the “same old” and explore new people and roles in our community. We can certainly stay in the tried and true, but eventually we, and our congregation become rootbound and stuck.

And then there are the weeds. They are always there, growing when nothing else is ready, and going gangbusters when the rest of the garden is wilting and tired. When we are worn out and tired, or weary of our daily walk, this is when the seeds of discord settle in and take root and choke out all of our potential. Gossip, playing favorites, power struggles, mistrust, all can sap the strength of who we are and who we want to be.

So thank God for the compost! For the fertilizer that allows us to be nourished, rejuvenated and strengthened. When we do not get fed, even the best laid plans go stale, lie fallow or stunted. When we fail to care for ourselves, when we fail to pray, and to worship, to experience the joy of fellowship, and to be an active part of the community , we miss out on the fertilizer. And in my own garden I can always tell when my own self-care is lacking. Everything is wild and wooly. I realize that things have started to bloom and grow, or die off, without my noticing. I need to slow down, get my hands dirty, and listen. Some of my best rejuvenation happens in the garden. And when I sit down and listen to everything that benefits from God’s garden, and watch things at work, I can marvel at the Creator who puts it all in motion.

1 comment:

David said...

Great post. I especially like the line thanking God for the compost.