SHAWN’S FOLLY?

 

And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11

 

I have a new gardener, Shawn, not to be confused with Mario who cheerfully blows leaves from one side of my yard to the other. Shawn comes to my house when the season changes, and I have the great joy of planning what seasonal colors will be added for the next few months. Shawn is a master gardener while I’m just an amateur who loves to see God’s handiwork up close and personal in my garden.
I’ve been anticipating spring long before the pecan trees began to leaf, a Texan’s sure sign that the frosts are over. I’ve tried to second-guess Shawn with ideas of what we’ll add this year. We’re working on what I fancifully call the Fountain Garden (you can imagine why), and much planning has gone into the flowers and foliage. Shawn listed columbine, shrimp plant, hosta, caladium, and many other favorites that I love.
On planting day, I could hardly wait to get home from work to see the scrubby little plot transformed into God’s Eden. But…what? Was I wrong? Was this NOT planting day? As I moved from bed to bed, all I could see were miniature ferns and things staked to the fence. There were tiny bits of foliage poking out of the ground in new places, and there were suggestions of color in other spots. What a letdown. Surely, this wasn’t what I’d waited for months to see.
About bedtime, when the disappointment had thoroughly soaked in, I began to reflect on the whole process of gardening: While the planting has been done, it doesn’t yet appear what the garden will be like. Only in my mind’s eye can I envision the promise that I’ve nurtured in my heart. All the dull hours of cleaning and pulling out dead matter were necessary to give new life an opportunity to thrive without pests and invasive plants. It would have been a lot more fun to just dig a hole and drop in a colorful plant, but—I’m in this garden for the long haul. The digging and harsh tilling were essential to remove the rocks and provide room for strong, healthy roots to develop. As for the smaller plants Shawn incorporated (while I hoped for big bursts of instant color), as they grow, they will combine to make a mass of texture and color and will prevent the weeds from penetrating and spoiling the effect I’ve wanted.
Perhaps the most significant thought was from Hebrews (10:36). I paraphrase: “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the proper work of the gardener, you might receive the garden of your dreams.” I admit, every morning as soon as the sun is up, I go out to see if anything has occurred in my garden. I like to think that God is also walking about in my heart garden to see if any new fruit is beginning to bud. Might there be a tiny spot of self control in that corner? Or possibly a new bit of joy about to burst into full bloom? I’m hoping so…

 

Our Father, you speak so often about gardens in your Word. Life began in a garden, and Jesus went often to the garden to be with you. Thank you for digging and planting and nourishing your life in us. Let it blossom fully for your Kingdom and your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

NEW BEGINNINGS

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11,12

 

Driving around my neighborhood, I see people out in the yard with trays of annuals, pyramids of fresh soil, and garden tools strewn about. There are printed signs in other yards that declare a renovation project is about to begin. It looks like everybody is ready for a fresh beginning.
I don’t know where to start. Should I work on the front courtyard with its large decorative pots? Should I go to the back garden that needs a touch of color? Would I be better served by just giving everything a thorough cleaning? A new season of nature provides the opportunity for us to give everything a fresh look. And any day can be a new beginning in our spiritual lives.
I love Paul’s admonition to “forget those things which are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13). Our spiritual lives also have seasons—what about moving into a time of spiritual renewal, of letting go of the past (even the good things), to see what God has for us at this time? He has already said that “goodness and mercy will follow” us all the days of our lives. Essentially, our past failures are graced by him, so we can let them go. And in letting go, our arms are open to embrace this new thing that he wants to do in us.
Might God want to heal those wounds that we’re not quite ready to release? Do you remember the man at the pool of Bethesda who had been ill for thirty-eight years? He kept coming to the pool hoping he would be cured, and then Jesus asks him a curious question, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6) Could it be that his illness became his point of identity just as our pain and suffering single us out? The man had to make a choice—give up the known for what faith had to offer. Jesus asks us the same question: “Do you want to be made well?” Do we want to become whole in him so that the attention (and glory) move from our pain to his plan?
In this new season, might God want us to forgive that grudge we’ve nurtured for decades? We all know the futility of unforgiveness, and yet we sometimes cling to wrongs from ancient history. (I remember Catherine Marshall’s writing that she had to forgive Henry VIII for his villainy.) Forgiveness is a good thing to practice in this new season.
Forgetting the past and pressing on to God’s promise for the future… Spring is a good time for new beginnings. We are new creations with the Holy Spirit constantly working in us to make us more like Jesus. Why not put away all those things “that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1) and joyously move into a new beginning?
It’s about time.

 

Father of all things, we ask that you help us to get rid of everything past that hinders us from moving into this new season with you. We don’t want the tiniest thing to hold us back. Strengthen us with all goodness to live in you and to do your will. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.