Discipline of Gardening

I am what is known as a gardening nerd. I absolutely love gardening! Gardening is rarely seen as a spiritual discipline, however, there are few other places where I find constant reminders and illustrations of God’s Word, His goodness and His working in our lives. God meets me in the garden.

What’s funny is, I used to hate gardening. When I was a young boy, my father kept a garden next to our creek, and it was the job of my brother and I to pull weeds. Pulling weeds during a hot Oklahoma summer wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. I considered our task to be a mild form of torture, and so I decided that gardening was not for me. However, one day, my father approached me with an offer that changed my entire outlook on the torturous task of pulling weeds. He offered me an area (about 15 ft x 15 ft) of the garden to be my very own! I would be able to decide what was planted there, and I would be the one to take care of it. This excited me, and I jumped at the chance (my dad was wiser than I thought). I planted pumpkins and cantaloupe. Every morning, I would hop out of bed and immediately head to my section of the garden. I would carefully search for every new weed that had emerged overnight. I would happily stay on my knees while ensuring that my garden was completely weed free. My perspective on gardening had officially changed.

Fast-forward to 2015. I now grow a large garden every year, and my children pull weeds beside me. Our garden currently has over 40 tomato plants, bell peppers, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, habaneros, ghost peppers, trinidad scorpion peppers, carolina reaper peppers (hottest pepper in the world…..my wife thinks I’m crazy), potatoes, onions, pinto beans, pink-eyed purple hulls, green beans, corn, squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, cucumbers and okra. The little boy from Oklahoma that once hated gardening, is absolutely crazy about it now. Within a rectangular section of dirt, my God provides numerous reminders of His truth, plenty of food for my family, and even food to share with others. Gardening is a blessing!

In the description of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis, we find that God is speaking the wonders of his creation into being. In chapter two, verse eight, we find that God is a gardener. He has “planted” a garden, and this is where He places Adam. We are told in verse fifteen that Adam’s task is to work the garden and take care of it. It is in the garden where God walks with His creations. It is in this garden that we find the tree of life (Gen. 2:9). Tragically, it is in this same garden, where we find the fall of mankind (Gen. 3).

Now that sin had entered the creation, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, cut off from the tree of life, and a curse was placed on the ground: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Gen. 3:17-19).

I found the truth of this curse about three weeks ago when I returned home from a week-long vacation to Niagara Falls. We pulled into our driveway, and I immediately went to see the condition of my garden. I’ve never seen such explosive growth! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of growth I was looking for. The weeds had completely taken over my garden (“an enemy has done this!!!). I couldn’t even see the okra plants because of the weeds (they were that tall!). It had rained the entire week while we were gone, and the weeds thrived like I have never seen before. I was tempted to get the lawn mower and give up on my garden for the year, but my sweet wife reassured me that we would all work together and get it back to the way it was before we left. It was a ten-day battle to regain control in the garden. As I was pulling weeds for hours, I was reminded of many spiritual truths, including the curse from Genesis chapter 3.

The Bible is rich with images of gardening. One example of this is in John chapter 15 when Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2) We also find garden imagery in many of Jesus’ parables. It is the garden of Gethsemane where we find our Savior pouring out His heart to the Father prior to His arrest. I encourage you to take some time to see how many places you can find references to gardening and fruit within the Scriptures. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you find.

Because gardening is such a major theme found throughout Scripture, it should be no surprise to us when we find valuable lessons and reminders about God and His Word while in the garden. For example, the other day I noticed something very odd on some of my potato plants. There were small “tomato-like” fruit growing at the top of the potato plants (but as you know, the actual potato grows underground). I had never seen anything like it before. I took a picture and sent it to my dad and to a couple of gardening experts that I know. None of them had seen this before. We were all baffled. It looked as though my potato plants were also producing tomatoes (ketchup and fries!!!). My dad cautioned me to not eat them since we weren’t sure what they were (again, wisdom). Another friend did some research and found that they were the “true fruit” of potato plants, and were actually poisonous.

What looked like a tomato to me, had the potential to kill me and my family. God meets me in the garden, and He teaches me. How often does Satan feed us falsehood disguised as truth? We see him do this as he twists Scripture while tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Jesus was able to withstand the temptations because He was trained in the Word. Ephesians 6:14 tells us to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist. The belt was the the first part of the armor that a Roman soldier would put on. It was vitally important because it held the breastplate in place and it held the sword. If the belt was not properly in place, then the armor would lose much of its effectiveness in protecting the soldier. If we are not spending time with God in His Word (THE truth), then our belt of truth will not be secure, meaning the breastplate of righteousness will not be in place, leaving us completely vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. Our enemy may present us with falsehood that looks strikingly close to truth. We need to be trained by God’s word to be able to recognize truth from lies. If we don’t, what may seem like truth to us, just might kill us.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve were banished from God’s garden and cut off from the tree of life. Isn’t it interesting that in Revelation chapter 22, John is being shown visions of Heaven, and as he’s looking at the river of life, he notices that on each side of the river stands the tree of life. Friend, one day, the curse will be over, one day all will be made new, one day, we will be home with the Father. Until that day, I will continue to meet God in the garden, to pray to him, to praise him, and to learn from him. Perhaps you too would benefit from spending time in the garden.

About the Author: Michael Jones is the pulpit minister of the Waynesboro Church of Christ in Waynesboro, He has been married for 14 years to Tiffany. They have two children – Brayden (10) and Sophia (5). He has a B.S. in Bible and Masters in Family Life Ministry from Oklahoma Christian University.

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Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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