I’ve said before that a garden is a metaphor for most all of life and it seems I’ve only uncovered a minuscule amount of all that could be learned there. Joe Rigney says that Scripture is the lens through which we read the world and it seems to me there’s a plot of content to be unearthed.
We came home to our garden after over a week of neglect and discovered a hot mess of weeds and growth. Thankfully not all weeds, lots of good growth, lots to harvest and enjoy.
Which reminded me of my life, weeds alongside food, sin alongside growth. It’s discouraging the rate of weed growth when ignored, just like it’s discouraging how quickly entangled sin gets in my life when I ignore it. But God is gracious and He produces good things, good growth, even where sin is present. But it can’t go on like that without the weeds or sin taking over. It must be sorted out, pulled, dug up, repented of, killed. Again and again. Every day.
When I look at the pics of our garden at the end of May, I remember just how it felt–like it was all under control. Like there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Like I was waiting for miracles that I could count on. Like, if I did this right, there would be no more stinging nettle.. ever. Like an experiment that was bound to be a wild success. Like I was going to sit on my bench and watch all my garden dreams come true. And if I’m being honest, like the same way I felt when we got married and when we first had kids. It felt like: We Got This.
When I put the bench in the garden I thought it would be there for me to sit on, to rest and soak in all the beauty. Ha! The real reason it’s there, which I didn’t foresee, is for me to have a place to set my tools and to put the baskets of produce waiting to be hauled up and to give Titus a place to stand at while I’m frantically getting as much done as I can. It’s there for the gladiolas to lean against as they shoot up tall. I don’t think I’ve sat on it since the day I put it there.
And that’s a lot like life. Everything is sentimental, with soft edges, on the front end. It’s also a giant underestimation. When our first three children were 3, 1, and newborn, it was easy to be sentimental about them and their future. Even with the crazy little years, there is an element of control that parents have that slips away in larger chunks as they grow. This can be either scary or purposeful– or some of both if you’re like me, but it’s definitely not sentimental.
The wreath that announced “Our Garden” has lost its little sign and drooped, even while the truth of the matter is, this is more Our Garden than ever. More work, more sweat, more investment, but now lacking the sentiment that got us started. Same with raising kids. The vision statement for our family and homeschool, the 1, 5, and 10 year goals–they haven’t been consulted in years. All that intentionality and hopefulness, it was a good thing, still is, it’s just not a theory anymore.
It’s hard to be sentimental about garden growth when your wielding a tiller and sweat is dripping off your nose and down your back and your hands are burning from pulling up the stinging nettle without gloves–again. Now I know–stinging nettle is never gone. It creeps in, it has to be pulled every time.
And I also know that there is no fence that keeps sin away from my kids. Don’t get me wrong, fences are a good thing and faithful parents use them. But they aren’t impenetrable. Sin is within and without. It has to be pulled every time. And as they get older, it takes more and more cooperation and initiative on their part and less sheer will and determination on mine. They must take up this mantle and I must transition from primary enforcer of sin management to primary encourager/instructor of sin management. Not to mention being an encourager of growth and godliness. And even with my oldest only entering 6th grade, already I feel that process of trust and letting go start its slow release.
Sometimes we get fruit we don’t expect, like carrots and tomatoes. I thought for sure we’d have cukes and zukes, but didn’t know if our soil was right for carrots and tomatoes. Lo and behold, I’ve got a bumper crop on my hands. Not only are the weeds more prolific than I imagined, so has been the produce.
When the garden is in its giving season, it’s easy to almost resent all that growth. I don’t know what to do with more beans! I don’t need any more lettuce! I’ve shredded enough zucchini for ridiculous amounts of bread! But that’s just like our God to give us more than we could ask or think.
God’s given us five children and I can’t remember a morning where I’ve awakened and thought, We Got This. I can’t remember a moment where it all felt within my grasp and control. I can’t ever remember thinking in regard to Titus’s special needs, “This is just what I’d planned for!” For me, there’s been no such thing as “planned parenthood.” Because God’s actually exploded my tiny plans and vision for our family. It’s been harder and better than I bargained for.
I thought we were raising a family of easy-going cucumbers, but he’s given me variety and bounty and spice and sweetness and just plain more goodness than I knew was good for me. So rather than resent all that bounty, I must remember that bounty isn’t for hoarding, but sharing–both in our garden and in our home. We’ve been entrusted with Gospel bounty, not to let it go to waste, but to enjoy and share.
Oh, the prayer of my heart is that this would be true of our family–sharing His goodness, unafraid of the toil that makes growth possible, covered in sweat and abounding in every good work, leaving behind sentimentality for the greater blessing of living.