Guest Post: God the Gardener
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.