Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And Thou Shalt Be Like a Watered Garden

I am really enjoying my garden. I feel just a bit of a thrill whenever I see something green coming out of the ground. Mostly it's just weeds. But whatever it is, it is so magical, so unexpected. How does a seed contain all those leaves, those buds, all that growth? I have a few flower beds and I have been out there almost every morning, puttering mostly. Playing around with the soil, pulling up crabgrass, waiting for the danger of the infamously late Canadian frost to finally be over so I can really get serious about plants.

I planted tulip bulbs last fall. Thinking about them all winter long, lost in the frozen yard, I didn't actually believe they would grow at first. I had never done it before, and it was like burying a stone. When early spring came, I peered over the beds and saw nothing stirring. How could I expect anything else? But when they finally did poke their little heads out of the soil, I was overjoyed. I checked on them everyday. Spring continued to show its surprises and now the trees, which were so recently covered with nothing but bare knobbles, are bursting with leaves. Peony stalks lifting themselves out of the darkness. It's all so incredible to me. I don't know why I am so surprised every spring, but I am.

It is hard not to believe in God in a garden. The prophet said to plant a garden, but I am convinced that it means more than self reliance, or food storage, or any of that stuff, though I think self reliance is important. It is about creation. It is about miracles. It is about seeing the hand of of God in the tiniest details, and the connection of all life to Him. It is about witnessing the steady organization of inert, useless materials--dirt, water, carbon dioxide--into something complex, beautiful, and regenerating. Entire forests spontaneously rising up out of the chaos by nothing more than a few seeds and time.

There is much symbolism in gardening and watching things grow. Some days, I feel rather like a seed, myself. My immortal soul was sent here in the dark and silence, and I stretch myself against the cosmic current of disorder, defying entropy. It is an impossible act, this miracle of sprouting in the stillness, reaching for the light, capturing the power of the sun with my delicate leaves, reaching into the earth with my hungry roots, sending forth a bud, a flower that bulges into a fruit that contains even more seeds. Impossible as it is, yet I try.

Noli Me Tangere; Fresco at Convent of San Marco, Florence,
by Fra Angelico - 1425-30
The greatest acts of God occurred in gardens. Knowledge and experience were introduced in the garden of Eden, and redemption and resurrection burst out of Gethsemane. "On that first Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene first thought she saw a gardener. Well, she did--the Gardener who cultivated Eden and who endured Gethsemane. The Gardener who gave us the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, the cedars of Lebanon, the tree of life" (Jeffrey R. Holland, Missionary Work and the Atonement) Though his plants, flowers, and trees are great and beautiful, above all Christ is a gardener of souls.

And we who are His children really are like plants cultivated in His garden, the vineyard of the world. Once scattered and wild, we are collectively put back together into the family tree of Christ to become His people, and we become Israel, the seed of Abraham, each of us forming part of God's beloved and often rebellious olive tree. Christ watches carefully over the olive tree, and He gathered me and grafted me into it. I, perhaps one of the more wild branches, am trying to put forth tame fruit before the great harvest of the end (Jacob 5).

In my garden I think about these kinds of things, faith and seeds. It gives me comfort to know that I am watched over, and that he is patient with me and my halting growth. I love the spring. I love the hope and the transformation. I love the miracles of change and life and order, all of which symbolize so beautifully our own journey to become something more than just a seed lost in the dirt.