Reflections From the Garden

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.   Galatians 6:9

It is spring, and my husband and I have started working on our garden. We’ve hacked down the weeds from last year, battled the encroaching bamboo, laid some mulch, and sown a few seeds. For our own sanity, we are trying to keep it simple this year, sowing mostly vines and low-maintenance plants.

As I looked today over the neat, very manageable-looking little rows, I was visited by the Ghost of Gardens Past. This specter reminded me that every spring, when the world is newly green and the temperatures are mostly pleasant, we have started a garden with neat, manageable-looking rows and high hopes of summer veggies to come.

Now granted, the first couple of gardens when the kids were small went well. They were happy to be home and so was I, and much of my garden work was done in the pleasant early mornings or late evenings. On those first couple of years, we did enjoy excellent yields.

However, the kids grew and our summers became busier. We acquired first one dog, then two, and when they were young, these much-loved beasties required a brisk walk in the early hours to prevent mischief throughout the day. As my garden hours diminished, the weeds took advantage and launched the first stage of a hostile take-over.

Then came first one April, then two, then more during which we began with neat, manageable-looking rows only to have a trip to visit family come up in late May or early June. The weeds reclaimed a larger portion of territory with each successive trip, and they brought in insectile and larval mercenaries to aid them in their coup.

Each summer, I would dutifully wade into battle, swinging my hoe in a determined attempt to recover the neat, orderly rows I had lost. I squashed bugs by the hundreds and scraped eggs off leaves, but always more came. It was as if some monstrous green and winged hydra had replaced the once timid weeds and small garden pests, mocking my puny, human strength.

Then, without fail, the Tennessee temperatures climb into the 90s with a heat-index of twenty-two million, and I turn my back in retreat to the gleeful amusement of the whole leafy, viney, buzzing horde.

Yet, even knowing all this I find myself here again with a hopeful heart, looking down on the neat, manageable-looking rows and plucking the baby weeds that will doubtlessly soon morph into a vast and teeming legion.

It is so easy to become discouraged. When the bitter taste of defeat is still on your tongue, the desire to give it all up is powerful. When door after door is closed and your knuckles are raw with knocking, when you sow and labor only to reap a puny handful; when there seems no end to pain and suffering for those you love; when you find yourself weary in body, mind, and spirit and yet the course you run stretches on indefinitely, the temptation to quit nearly overwhelms.

But I think I know why I come back year after year with my handful of seeds and my determination that this year will be different. I think, maybe, it is because that garden is a living metaphor for my life. Much of what I am doing now feels like wasted energy and in many ways I feel the oppressive heat of my annual summer defeat waging war on my resolve.

But I will not give up, no matter how badly I want to, because I am not running this race for me. I am running it for my God, who says that He is enough. What’s more, He has endured all these things and more. Indeed, as a man, Jesus experienced all the pain, fatigue, joy, and sorrow that human beings face. He was tempted in all ways, and almost certainly the lure of forsaking His mission of suffering for ungrateful mankind was among them.

Yet He did not quit. And out of gratitude and for love of Him, neither will I.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. . .

…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees… Hebrews 12:3-4, 11-12

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