Working in the gardens at the church and the manse over January prompted something of a journey through the memories. As we pruned back plants, uprooted and relocated others, we were reminded of the state of the manse “garden” when we were being interviewed four years ago. Indiana Jones would have found it challenging to walk through. I can’t remember an intentional plant growing at the time. Ankles were under threat in certain parts, while the rest was simply overgrown. In stark contrast we are now in receipt of regular compliments from passers-by for the joy the garden brings. During the past week Caleb shared some of the produce of Ev’s tomato plants with his school friends, who were both delighted at the taste, and taken aback in the knowledge that they grew in the inner-city.
But such transformation did not happen overnight, nor is it finished.
It took many months of work in restoring the garden: an intensive and intentional job. Soil work, irrigation lines and general landscaping provided the framework for planting. And it moved into a new phase when planting was done: watering, weeding, pruning…
Some plants were initially planted in the wrong place and hindered movement about the garden. But these plants could not all be relocated. Efforts to transplant some into different settings lead to their demise. It is much easier to grow and mature a plant in one place – quite another thing to introduce a mature plant to a new location. Those that did survive required a time of extra care as they adapted to their new environment. Following an establishment time, new growth began to emerge.
In the process we have learned some important lessons.
Gardens cannot be “speed grown”. I know our supermarkets are filled with artificially ripened and reddened fruit and vegetables. But when you taste one that has been allowed to mature at its own pace you can taste a distinct difference. Garden growth, much like spiritual growth, is organic: it takes time, care, and attention to environment. Even with all this in place, sometimes growth is not evident. As Paul once wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who caused the growth.” (1 Cor 3:6)
As we tend the garden of our souls: both individually, and as a community, let us be patient gardeners, preparing and nurturing, and praying that the Spirit of God grant gracious growth.
February 5, 2006