He smiled, and there were flowers.
The world began with a garden.
“This is not new information,” you say. True. Nevertheless, it is an amazing thing to contemplate. The garden of Eden must have been absolutely exquisite, for it was created by God himself, and sin had not yet made its corrupting appearance. Can we even imagine how beautiful it was? I don’t think so, but perhaps we get a tiny fraction of an idea of its beauty when we gaze upon an almost perfect rose or the ravishing blue of a dainty forget-me-not.
People say that you are near to God in a garden. It is easy to see evidence of the great designer all around us, anywhere: from the people we meet to the earthworms we step over after a spring rain. It is in the garden, though, that I take the greatest pleasure in his creation.
I confess that I am not a master gardener. To be really honest—and it hurts a little to admit this—I’m not even a very good one. Still, I love gardening. I love the challenge of caring for a plant to the point where it produces food or flowers. The idea of a seed planted under a bit of soil becoming something completely different—and lovely as well—above the ground is irresistible.
Rewarded with Beauty
Man, created in the likeness of God, plants a garden in sin and weakness. He is rewarded with beauty and good things to eat, reminding him that God is good.
There is such a sense of accomplishment in filling a basket of fresh tomatoes for a friend or neighbor, after tending and weeding and watering the plants for months. One day you are counting their little green marbles; the next you’re giving away firm, red, tasty fruit. Of course, it is not really the next day, and that’s part of the fun: every morning you take a little walk out to the garden to see what is new, with the sun warming your back as you bend down to pull a stray weed or pick a ripe strawberry. It’s your opportunity to see the work of God in nature, yes, and to participate in it.
Participation in the work of God—that does something for a person’s self-esteem. It is perhaps a small piece of work in the grand scheme of things. After all, we cannot create the seed that will one day be a mature plant—that’s God’s domain. The seed produces quite a lot of satisfaction, though. Plant a bulb, and in a few months, up pops a tulip or a daffodil. Plant a squash seed, and pretty soon you’re eating fresh zucchini with your spaghetti.
Marigolds! Petunias! Cosmos! Hollyhocks! The variety of colorful and gorgeous flowers that may grace a garden—or a doorway—is endless. All winter I pore over books and catalogs to get ideas for my yard. As soon as the weather warms up enough to plant, I go off to the nursery to see what is available. As with any project, one must be judicious. Where will I put this plant? It’s pretty, but will it thrive in my yard, or will it languish because the soil in my yard is not suitable for it?
Plant, Tend, Enjoy
It is well known that our creator has designed even the tiniest plant to grow in a particular environment, placing inside its little seed all the ingredients enabling it to do so. I read somewhere that a forget-me-not seed can lie dormant in the ground for up to thirty years and then suddenly grow and bloom. This fascinates and teaches me. If God has taken such care over a plant, will he not provide for my every need as well? Jesus reminded his followers, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” There are many lessons to be learned from a garden, and what a glorious way to be educated.
Every year reinforces for me one important lesson: a truly productive garden requires work. At least a modicum of planning is needed, along with some tending. If I don’t weed, stake, and water my precious plants, they may survive and might even yield some produce—but they won’t thrive without my checking on and caring for them.
The other side of the coin presents itself: I cannot control everything. Sometimes no matter how well I prepare the ground or how late I plant, a heavy rain or a hard freeze can wipe out part or all of a garden. I am reminded that the weather is in God’s hands. Everything is ultimately in his hands. I plant, and tend, and enjoy the work that God is allowing me to do in his world.
This year I am planning to put a bench in my garden. Come and sit with me. We can soak up some sunshine, enjoy the flowers, and talk about what our God can do with a tiny seed.