Gardening the Soul

Spring is not too far away, and the minds of many Melburnians turns to preparation and planting of their vegetable gardens. It is something we missed last year, and - it seems - will miss again this year. But a journey down to the vegetable garden at this time of year can be a revelation. For many there is the revelation of a weed-infested, overgrown patch of ground. Hard to believe anything can be grown there. And yet, in a few months time it will be replete with fresh vegetables for the summer salads.

These gardens are a reminder of the power of neglect: that when things are not tendered appropriately, they run wild. The occasional self-sown plant emerges through the tangle, but the productivity of the garden and the pleasure it generates are greatly diminished.

Unfortunately, many people adopt this sort of attitude to their own spiritual journey. They expect fruit to emerge in a morass of events and ideas left to their own devices, rather than a disciplined and structured care of the soul. Often we lament our distance from God, the lack of vitality to life, and particularly to our spiritual life. The answer is often to be found in the way in which we attend to the garden of our soul.

While it can at times be a painful process to take a stroll through the garden of our lives, an honest appreciation of its state is often the first step towards rectifying the problems: when we know what we really face, we can work with God to improving the situation.

A prayer written by Richard Foster is a good place to start.

Clear away the dead growth of the past,
Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,
Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,
Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,
Cultivate and water and tend my heart,
Until new life buds and opens and flowers.
August 20, 2000
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