A few years ago, I began an exciting new hobby. I had always wanted to grow a vegetable garden. I knew very little on the subject, but I was determined to produce a harvest of luscious veggies. I daydreamed about picking vine-ripened tomatoes, tasting delectable crooked neck squash, feeling the dirt between my fingers, as I dug up potatoes. I could see this crop, even before I had my garden ready to plant. In my mind’s eye I could see the outline of my mini-farm. I could see it by faith! In a thousand square feet, I would learn a lot about agriculture, yet I would also cultivate my Christianity too. I would learn valuable lessons about God in this sanctuary of tilled earth.
My endeavor began with a survey of my half acre lot for the most suitable location. I came to a tract of fallow ground adjacent the white fence, which separated my property from my Papa’s property. I paced this parcel for hours measuring how large to plant my garden, as the song birds were singing their melodies of spring glee. I remember feeling the sweat forming on my brow from the heat of the bright shining sun. My prospect was covered in weeds and unwanted vegetation, but somehow I viewed it like the promised land, a place which flowed with milk of potential and the honey of sweet success.
My hands ached from the vibration of the tiller, as I claimed my “promised land”, twenty four inches at a time with each pass. In my mind, this was going to be the greatest garden, since Eden. It would be a place of abundant blessings. I envisioned being able to give boxes full of fresh produce away in the community. The elderly, on fixed incomes would not have to worry about purchasing medications over food again! In the solitude, found behind my ever vibrating tiller, I prayed for a bumper crop.
First, I have come to know with every admirable goal, comes opposition. I encountered adversity, much like the children of Israel, I encountered an unrelenting foe. My nemesis, was not giants or walled cities, it was a tiny tenacious green plant; called nut grass. I really believe this plant was named, due to the fact it drove gardeners around the globe insane, rather than it’s nut-shaped root. I plowed, hoed, weeded, and reluctantly sprayed herbicide; nothing seemed to work! This pesky little plant would sprout back over night. It was like an opposing enemy force, which would infiltrate my territory overnight, and wave in defiance in the morning light. It was a never ending battle. At my wit’s end, I sought counsel from a wise farmer. “You want to know how to get nut grass out of your garden?” he paused smirking, “ I suggest you move your garden!” Eventually, I came to the conclusion I would have to allow the “wheat to grow with the tares” and separate them in the end! A man that has never planted a garden will never fully comprehend the severity of the curse upon the ground!
Secondly, as I plowed, plucked, and pulled those pesky weeds, scooting on my backside through the plowed rows; God began to speak to me. In the solitude of my work, God’s familiar voice said, “You know this garden is like the human heart. It must be guarded from pesky intruders. If left unchecked these small ‘weeds’ will overrun and choke out the fruit.” In my mind, images of the things I had left unchecked in my personal walk flooded my mind. I began to confess those things that were hindering a fruitful walk with Christ.
My third valuable lesson was on the power of a seed. I can still smell the freshly tilled South Georgian dirt. Each row had white placards designating what was planted. The garden rows held the promise of future bounty! In faith, I hand planted each seed. I did not have the luxury of a planter. So, using my index finger to gauge planting depth, I planted each seed with care. I began to think of the power within these tiny little seeds. Life producing power was in each of them. It was impossible to predict the return from this small, seemingly insignificant investment, my future harvest was in them! The Spirit impressed upon my freshly weeded heart, “My Word is a seed, as well. Though it seems so insignificant when planted in your heart, the return is far greater! All it takes is to be planted, watered, and nurtured and I give the increase.” Afterward, I began to meditate on the Word of God in my freshly plowed sanctuary.
The fourth lesson I learned was on patience. In the days that followed, I paced anxiously awaiting a sign of growth. Yet, I found none. Maybe I had planted too deep or too shallow? Maybe the seeds were duds? Maybe I watered them too much or too little? I would sit in my wooden swing and watch the sprinkler go around and around, waiting. It takes a great deal of faith and patience to be a gardener! I have faith, but at that point God used this time to strengthen my patience. I began to visualize what was going on under the surface of those planted rows. I could see the plants growing by faith. Much like our walk with God, we cannot always see Him working, but He is! Eventually, the plants broke the surface and this thrilled me!
Finally, after several weeks of tending, watering, and fertilizing it was harvest time! All the hard work was not over, but rather just beginning. Everything had been preparation for this glorious time! The sun blazed hot overhead as we picked everlasting rows of peas, cucumbers, and squash. I was drenched in perspiration as I cut the itchy okra from the stalk. The smell of freshly sliced watermelon filled the air. Family members smiled as they tasted the sweetness of the vine. I was witnessing the fulfillment of my heart’s desire to plant a garden. I learned a great deal about gardening and God in that twenty by fifty feet patch of ground.