Guest Post: God the Gardener

By KDS

Luke related to Christ as a Physician. Elsewhere He is referred to as the Good Shepherd. But for me, God is a Gardener. I spent a summer during college interning at a tree care company. As a horticulture major, I had been in classes learning about soils, plant physiology, and even principles of tree maintenance, but did not yet have extensive hands-on experience. That was what this summer was for.

While I was up in one of my first trees, I was thinking about what I was about to do with this tree. As I had learned in classes, I started by removing the dead, dying and diseased branches. Then branches with structural issues. And once the obvious cuts were made, I considered which structural cuts I would make. And as I contemplated my next cuts, I started talking to the young tree, “I’m sorry about the next cuts I’m about to make. The branches are healthy, but they are growing in the wrong direction. If I don’t cut them out now, they will just cause problems later. A few small cuts now will mean I don’t have to make big cuts in a couple of years.”

And in my twenty-something brain, an idea clicked. I was experiencing some of my first growing pains of adulthood—righteous desires being unfulfilled, opportunities not being opened for me, and general realization that life as an adult included more pain than expected. And as I was perched in that tree, saw in hand, I thought of God having the same conversation with me, “I’m sorry about the next cuts—your desires are righteous, but they won’t lead you to grow in the right direction. If you don’t learn these lessons now, it will just be more painful later. A few small changes now will mean you don’t have to make bigger changes later in your life.”

It may have been a very simplistic view of how God was working in my life, but it was a message I could hear at the time. Since then, I have frequently reflected on God as a Gardener as I’m pulling weeds, deadheading flowers or prepping soil for new plants. A garden is an ever-changing thing, with seasons of tremendous growth and times of winter. It is beautiful as a whole and fascinating at close inspection. My own garden of spirituality is also ever-changing with times of growth and times of spiritual winter. My garden is also unique and independent of others’ gardens. I can appreciate their beauty and sometimes take a transplant, but I have no expectation of my garden being the same as anybody else’s. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be—the garden is mine and the Gardener preps and plants and sometimes prunes it into something beautiful.

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5 Responses

  1. Caroline Kline says:

    This is a lovely theological reflection on the nature of God. I like how you related it to your own life experiences, and particularly how your metaphor of God as gardener explains some of the painful things you (and all of us) have to endure as we live our lives.

    As I’ve aged and become more cognizant of all the horrible things that happen in the world, my vision of God has become more distant. I’m almost more inclined to think of God as the clock maker, who sets things up and then steps back and watches how things work out. I’m kind of sad that I don’t have this vision of God working intimately in people’s lives so much any more. Maybe in time that will change. I hope so.

  2. MDearest says:

    This is the best metaphor ever. Thanks.

  3. Christine Balderas says:

    I have a Greg Olsen picture of Christ (more abstract them his others) watering a small pot of flowers. People love it because it is so simple and beautiful, showing Him as the living waters.

  4. Christine Baleras says:

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    Hopefully you can see this picture of Christ watering a new seedling.

  5. Emily U says:

    I love this metaphor for God, too. And of life being a garden. It’s really a rich one, with so many different ways it can apply to my spiritual life at different times. I’m like Caroline in that my vision of God is also increasingly distant, but the idea of God being a gardener works well for me because gardeners only do so much – they can’t actually make things grow, they can only provide the space and conditions for growth. The development that happens still has so many degrees of freedom, and still has almost unlimited potential for diversity and uniqueness. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas here!

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