I love to garden and, so far this year, things in Calgary have been pretty good for gardens. Spring came early, there’s been lots of sun and warmth, and also enough rain to keep things green and lush. We often get hail, but fingers crossed, I haven’t seen hail at all this year and my hostas look much better without giant holes in their leaves. Our lot is a pie, and over the years I’ve worked hard on the back portion, but our front yard was looking a little desperate. It’s the small piece of the pie, sloped, and was bordered by six large spruce trees. Even grass wouldn’t grow on that patch. Three years ago we removed several spruce, and my husband and one of my sons did the backbreaking work of terracing that front yard with stone. It took most of the summer, but by late August we ordered soil, shovelled it into the newly created terraced areas, and I spent the winter dreaming of what I’d plant the following spring. This year, my dream of a multileveled yard filled with flowers and greenery has come to fruition. There’s the occasional spot of soil showing, but most of that terraced yard is filled with perennial flowers, shrubs and ground covers. Some probably think it’s a bit odd, not having any grass, but I couldn’t be happier.
As lush as things look right now, six months ago, the ground was a frozen wasteland.
Shrunken husks were all that was left of the previous year’s growth, and dried leaves and brown stalks clung to ice. Looking at that terrace in January, it was hard to imagine it could ever have promise. A stranger might shake her head at the mess, but a gardener knows better.
I can’t help but think that our lives, without Jesus, are like that terrace mid-winter. They’re parched and depleted, with dried dreams and browning hopes reminding us of our failures and unfulfilled potential. But, giving our lives to Jesus and all he wants to do in us is like giving in to springtime. Others see a mess, but the gardener knows that hiding beneath the surface is the potential for loveliness. With the warmth of love, the food of Scripture, the discipline of weeding and the nurture and care of the gardener, a desolate patch of frozen soil becomes a place of great beauty. The gardener knows that beneath the soil hides a lush fern, fragrant lily-of-the-valley, exuberant day-lilies, majestic delphiniums. The master gardener sees in us the seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). If we trust, and give in to Him, He can create beauty in us that is beyond our wildest imagining (Eph 3:20). He perceives a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland no matter how hopeless the soil may seem.
In addition to its beauty, a garden, even a flower garden, is a source of life for other creatures. My flowers are literally buzzing with bees, who feast on the nectar while they pollinate. Wild hares rest in the shade of arching daylilies, and birds nibble at seeds and fat worms. This year, to our surprise and delight, a little duck has taken up residence under the hostas and is currently sitting on a clutch of white eggs. The garden nourishes my need for beauty but also satisfies the needs of others. So too, a life given to Jesus is not only a soul full of beauty, it is one that can assist the gardener in nurturing and feeding others. The good things Jesus grows in us are never just for our own enjoyment but always for the good of the community.
My garden is also a place for dreams. I see not only the successes, but also the potential for more. “Next year” is a commonly heard phrase, spoken with hope and excitement. Jesus also looks at us, rejoices at the successes, and then gently nudges us to more. That brown patch, that dead spot, is a place He can work toward elegance and artistry. I’ve tried lots of things in my garden that haven’t worked. As I throw yet another plant failure into my bins, I joke that I have the world’s most expensive compost. Yet that very compost, scraps of leftovers and failures and things I don’t want, becomes what enriches the soil and nourishes. Nothing is wasted with Jesus. Where we dared and failed and grieve, he sees potential for future growth. In this world we have trouble, but there is no need to fear; He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Surely the One who can overcome the evil one can coax life into my barren places.
What beauty lurks beneath the surface of your life? What forsaken spot needs hope? The master gardener is always on call. He sits, patiently waiting for us to trust, so he can coax life and beauty out of decay and despair. No soil is too hard for his touch to soften it and no spot too desolate for lush growth. All he needs is a willing, trusting heart. Give in to the gardener. He is loving and gracious, and he longs to bring new life and beauty to your broken spots.
Karen Vine is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective. Thank you, Karen!