Monday, June 10, 2013

Psalm 23, Gardener's Edition

The Lord is my Gardener,
I shall not want.
He fills my soil with nutrients,
He waters me to perfection.
He restores my health.
He trains my vines upward
for my fruitfulness and his glory.
Even though I am vulnerable to pest and disease
I will not fear,
For my Gardener is with me.
Your keen eye and protective hands, they cover me.
You prepare a deep, fertile place for me
in the presence of many that wish to hurt me.
You transplant me when I am root-bound
so that I can experience new growth.
Surely your goodness and mercy will be with me
all the days of my life.
And when I am done producing fruit in this garden,
I will dwell in the garden of the LORD forever.

Gardening is slow. Gardening is work. But in many ways it is similar to the process that God is working in our lives. He plants the seed of our life in our mother's womb, in the darkness, allowing us to grow as he causes us to grow. When we become root-bound in our pots, he removes us from a cozy, fruitless situation and transplants us into a new place, a place where we can spread out and grow to our full potential. He gives us food, water, and air.

Sometimes we feel like the conditions are not ideal. Isaiah 58:11 says that “The Lord will guide you always; 
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.' Notice that God doesn't say he will remove you from the sun-scorched land (or the shady place or the bog), but that he will satisfy your needs in the midst of them, and he will strengthen you so that you become like a well-watered garden.

I read an article the other day that noted that when you transplant shrubs into a shady area, they will thin out and become weaker. But if you transplant them with several of the same species nearby, eventually they will grow together, indistinguishable from each other but showing themselves off as something beautiful. It's only when the gardener embraces the fact that his garden is shady that he can work with the plants to create something that is strong. Some of us have been planted in less-than-ideal situations. But God has given us others to lean on, and when we choose to live in community, our lives become a thing of beauty.

Behind the fence in my backyard is a very large poplar tree. It has shallow roots growing far into my backyard, with a very large one growing along the edge of the grass into my garden. We might find ourselves in similar situations, where something comes along and wants to take the life out of us. It tries to siphon off the subsistence the Lord is pouring into our lives. Sometimes he has to pour extra blessings into our lives because they seem to be drained away at a record pace. But the other day, my husband took a hatchet to that root growing into my garden, and someday God will do the same to the root that is draining you.

Did I mention that gardening is slow? Not only that but it's a lot more work to garden than to fill the backyard with asphalt or just let it go to weed. It may seem to take an eternity for God to work something beautiful in our lives. Often the soil we have to work with is rocky and weedy. But slowly, ever-so-slowly, God brings in load after load of compost and manure to make the garden bed fertile. Did you know that some gardeners have built productive gardens on top of bridges, old parking lots, and rooftops? No matter how hard you feel like your childhood soil was, God can redeem it.

Every day he pulls out a few weeds. Sometimes the weeds have just germinated and are just beginning to send down roots. When God pulls those baby weeds out of our lives, we sometimes don't even notice because there are always more weed seeds germinating in the garden. And yet, he is working. Sometimes the weeds are so large that when they are pulled, they leave a gaping hole that then needs to be filled. When their large roots are close to the desired plant, they may even tear some of our roots as they are coming out. But the Master Gardener knows how to heal all wounds.

My prayer for you is that you would be like the metaphorical tree mentioned in Psalm 52:8. “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”

May the Lord bless you
and keep you
May he make his face to shine up you
and be gracious to you
May he turn his countenance toward you
and give you peace.

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