One reason I love working in the garden is that, while my hands are busy, my mind is free to roam. Sometimes I focus on the latest song that’s stuck in my head, and sometimes I think about a chapter in my next book or the next article I plan to write. My favorite times, though, are when God seems to open my mind and my heart to the spiritual lessons that can be found in the world around me. I spent last Saturday morning working my little vegetable patch, and here’s what my garden taught me.
Strong roots will stand you in good stead.
Early in May, I bought nine small tomato plants and nestled them snugly into their bed. Since the squirrels don’t usually start raiding until the actual tomatoes appear, I thought they would be safe until we returned from visiting David’s mother for a week. Unfortunately, a rogue squirrel or a hungry rabbit made an unscheduled visit, and three tomato plants went missing while we were gone. I didn’t pay much attention until last weekend when I went out to fight the weeds. When I reached the tomato rows, I noticed that one of the little plants, although it had been gnawed down to the ground, was putting out new leaves. The unseen part of the plant had enough strength to survive what looked like a fatal blow and to come back strong.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Bloom where you’re planted.
As I reached the middle of the row, I saw something that I thought was a weed. On closer inspection, though, I discovered it was a tomato plant. The top of one of the ravaged plants had fallen off the small mound on which it was growing and landed in the low spot between rows. Undeterred, it had put down roots and was growing quite nicely.
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13
Older plants–and older people–still have value.
After I finished with the tomatoes, I moved over to the “older” part of the garden where the mustard greens, spinach, and lettuce were.
Our growing season starts early in Texas, and by this time of year, the leafy vegetables have gone to seed, and the bugs have begun to munch on the remaining leaves. When that happens, it’s time to remove the old plants and make room for some hot-weather crops. Sounds about like corporate America, doesn’t it? Before I pulled anything up, though, I inspected carefully and harvested enough lettuce and spinach leaves for several salads. With all the edible parts salvaged, it was time to uproot–but it still wasn’t time to discard. Through the weeks and months of sunshine, rain, and nutrients from the soil, these plants had stored up nourishment that could be passed on to the next generation of plants. The next stop was the compost pile.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. Psalm 92:14
You never know what will happen to the seeds you throw around.
Our compost pile probably wouldn’t measure up to a professional gardener’s standards. As we cleared the back yard, we found a small hill–more of a lump really. It looked like, in a previous life, it might have been a compost pile, so we added to it. I throw all my plant-based kitchen garbage on it, and we throw on a layer of dead leaves from time to time. This spring, David ran the tiller over it a few times and then tilled some of it into the garden before I planted. Since it’s not enclosed in any way, I’m used to finding stray weeds and grass growing up through the refuse. However, when I visited it last weekend, I was surprised by the two plants that were sprouting happily next to some discarded coffee grounds and celery trimmings. One looked like some kind of squash plant, and the other was either a watermelon or a cantaloupe plant. I’m still too much of a city girl to know for sure until they get a little further along. As I thought about that little accidental garden, I wondered how often some random act of kindness or an almost careless word of encouragement bears fruit.
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7