How Grandpa’s Garden Influenced my Theology

One chilly day, my maternal grandfather invited my sister and I into his back garden.  He lifted the snow covered cold frame lid, and revealed rows of vegetables and herbs, vibrant and dewy as a spring morning.  We tasted a few sprigs of parsley, crunching tough, peppery freshness.  In summer, grandpa’s garden flourished, too.  My sister and I carefully tiptoed between two feathery rows of asparagus, taller than most adults we knew.  He grew unusual vegetables like parsnip and turnips; along with common ones like lettuce and tomatoes.  He tended his yard so joyfully, so faithfully.  I don’t ever remember seeing weeds.

Gardening gives me joy, too, although my gardens have rarely been weed-free.  Digging and planting, pruning and watering, when I haven’t spoiled them by complaining, have been times of quiet reflection and prayer.  On the best gardening days, each fresh green shoot, each flower, and each butterfly and bird they attract seems to me to be a beautiful miracle.

Plants flourish in every vision of paradise.  At the beginning of time, God, who also seems to like gardening, “planted a garden in the east, in Eden…and…made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”  Ancient Hebrew prophets described a coming time of peace and justice as a time when “every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree.”  Heaven is described as a place where fantastical trees bear a new crop of fruit each month.

Even now, we’re told in the Christian Bible, God watches over us, like a gardener, pruning some and grafting in others so we can become more fruitful.  In times of growth and in times of loss, he tends us, even more carefully than my grandfather watched over his parsley, asparagus and parsnips.

Application:  Dear friend, open your eyes to the beautiful miracle of growth in the produce we buy in grocery stores and even in weeds growing between cracks in sidewalks.  If you have gardening to do, try using it as a time for reflection and prayer.  Weary soul, rest assured that God protects, nourishes and prunes you through every season like a prize vine.  “In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”

Reflection:  

Tell about a time when you successfully grew something.

Recommended Reading:

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan

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