My wife Valerie was raised on a farm. Her mother taught her how to can and freeze vegetables for use throughout the year. Her grandfather taught her how to care for and keep a garden. I was raised in a small town where we had a grocery store that kept cans of vegetables on shelves and bags of vegetables in freezers. So she and I have this arrangement between us: She does the “brain” work in the garden (spraying, trimming and picking the vegetables when ready) and my job is to control the weeds. We spend a lot of time in the garden.
When we first planted the garden, the newly tilled soil, the straight row of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and corn, looked like a picture from a magazine on gardening. I looked over our garden and I had a sense of pride, accomplishment and a sense of the pioneer spirit. The next morning I found some of our plants had been eaten by rabbits that discovered a “Thanksgiving feast” courtesy of our hard work.
A few days later I looked over our garden and noticed some “plants” in between the rows of vegetables. Valerie told me these “plants” were called “weeds” and I needed to pull them. She is the “brains” of this garden so I began pulling weeds. A few days later there were so many weeds that I couldn’t keep up. Valerie told me I needed to “till” in between the rows of vegetables and this excited me because “tilling” means operating power equipment. As I “tilled” the soil became soft again and looked like it did when we first planted. However, as I tilled I dug up clumps of dirt that wouldn’t break. Valerie told me these were rocks and I needed to pick them up. Weeds and rocks, rocks and weeds, no matter how many I pull, “till” or pick up there are always more. We spend a lot of time in our garden.
Although it was taking a lot of work, things were going well in the garden, until the rains came. It rained and rained. It rained to much that some of our vegetables rotted and the plants became diseased. I looked out over our garden and I could no longer see the rows of plants; it all looked like one giant weed. Every day as the weather permitted we would spend just a little time in our garden. With every hour we spent, the garden began to look better. Our garden was far from perfect; we have weeds and rocks and Valerie is keeping careful watch for bugs and disease. We spend a lot of time in our garden.
Our spiritual lives are like a garden. When we first come to Christ everything is fresh and new. The rows are perfectly planted, the soil is soft and weed-free. It doesn’t take long for the weeds to begin to grow and the soil to become hard. If the weeds are not attended to, if the plants are not looked after, the “fruit” in the garden is choked out by the weeds. We need to spend a lot of time in our spiritual garden.
If Valerie and I only spend a couple hours a week sitting on our porch watching the garden grow, what kind of shape would our garden be in? If I had listened to what Valerie taught me about tilling, weeding and rocks but stayed on the porch, what kind of shape would our garden be in? Going to church, singing a few songs, listening to a message does no good if we stay on the porch.
So some on, Christians! Throw away your spiritual porch rocking chairs. There is planting, weeding, tilling and rocks that need our attention. Let’s keep the soil of our souls soft and weed-free. The weather, like our circumstances, is beyond or control; both good and bad things happen. Christians are not known for their circumstances, but for how they respond to them. Matthew 7:16 says, “By their fruit you will know them.” We should really spend a lot of time in our garden.
Mark S. Erskine is pastor of Grove City Nazarene Church.