Nature Hates a Garden

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Many pastors sense a call to get involved in church planting, but the next steps can often feel overwhelming. In this Seven Minute Seminary, Ed Stetzer offers a 5 step guide for those pastors called to plant churches. They include: pre-assessment, assessment, boot camp, coaching, reproduction plan.

One of Britain’s romantic poets said that. He said “nature hates a garden.” All gardeners know this is a fundamental truth. The minute we begin to tame the ground, the day we plan and dig and set things to order, well, that very day the forces of nature scheme their insidious destruction. Bugs. Weeds. Drought. Frost. Failure to thrive.Things that crawl under the dirt to eat away the roots. Things that fly from the sky to suck the buds.

Last week we took our vacation at home. The plan was to do battle with nature and take back the garden. But no, nature had her way. A monsoon hit Kentucky and for five days rain fell in buckets. Cats and Dogs. Pelting. Dumping. A gully-washer.We watched. The garden grew thick with green that wasn’t planned.

But the sun did come back out and within an hour every lawn mower on the block was fired up. We sounded like NASCAR. I put on my light blue rubber girl boots and stepped into the garden to begin pulling weeds. I started carefully, pulling one and then another. Soon my impatience overcame me and I began ripping hand fulls of intrusive weeds, tossing them over my back to the sidewalk for later pickup. I was a mighty gardening force.

In the middle of all that productive progress I grabbed a handful of clover and thistle and pulled, and with the weeds tore out a tender flowering plant that had just started attracting bees and butterflies  (my goal). I had been tenderly cultivating this plant for weeks. The red tipped tendrils were stretching to the sky and I ripped it out by the roots. It laid in my hand, limp, helpless, and I stood there boot deep in soil and muck and looked at my hand holding the thing that had been the most beautiful plant in my garden.

And I thought of Jesus who said that he is gentle and doesn’t rip out the weeds before the end of time because he might rip out something precious. And I thought about my grown kids, and how easy it is for me to want to wade through their life and rip out the weeds that don’t belong (from my perspective) and clean their lives up so their garden can be more beautiful. And I thought about how impatient Iam with my own life, wanting to dig and pick at the sores and  weaknesses … and in so doing I pull up what is also beautiful and fragile in me.

What is most precious in life is often most delicate. And our vigorous (aka rude) pulling at each others lives is not what Jesus would do. He would go slow. He would tend the growth and be very gentle in uprooting weeds. I stood there and looked at my hand full of crushed and mutilated plant life and I knew in an instant that I had just received a message from heaven.

I replanted the plant. I staked it up and fertilized it. I propped up the blooms. They wilted and shrunk. That was four days ago. I think the plant might make it but its progress is mightily hindered. I won’t do that to my kids. Or my husband. I am going to be a kinder gardener.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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