A reflection by Danny Schweers for October 29, 2023.
The more I garden, the more I learn to be gardened. Imagination is needed.
I do not claim to be a good gardener. Mostly I just cut and trim, trying to keep the plants in the yard under control. I wield clippers and loppers, mower and whacker. Each plant has its own idea of what is best but I have an overall idea of how the yard should look, so I cut and trim.
Exercising so much power, you can understand how gardening can feel god-like. I rip tree seedlings up by the roots. “No, Mister Maple, that is not where you are going to grow.” I determine their destinies. By repeated clippings, the chaotic honeysuckle bushes now gently arch above the paths, paths where ivy is prohibited but every manner of low-growing weed is welcomed, as long as it is green under foot. I determine where things grow. Wild as my garden is, it is not a free for all. There is a plan.
Am I similar to my plants? Is there a power determining my limits? Cutting me short when I get out of line? Trimming my possibilities? Shaping me? A power with a plan?
Christians usually think of God as a shepherd, not as a gardener, but the more I garden, the more sympathetic I am to the idea that each of us has a place in God’s garden, that we suffer when we think only of ourselves, that there is a gardener who cares for us but does not hesitate to keep us from getting beyond ourselves, if God counts us as part of the garden.
So when I am frustrated or at a loss, when things do not go my way, I wonder if The Gardener is at work. I learn to be gardened, imagining God at work, that there is a plan.
I think of John 15:1-2. Jesus tells his disciples, “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.” For me, this is one of the scariest passages in scripture. Our choice is to be cut off or to be pruned. Either way, God’s clippers are coming at us!
I take solace in what that passage goes on to say. It says this is to the Father’s glory, that we will bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be disciples of Jesus, that his joy may be in us, that our joy may be complete. May it be so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danny Nelson Schweers chairs SsAM’s Communication Committee. He is an active photographer and writer. Click here to visit his website and make a comment.