Have you ever noticed that tending to a garden is much like tending to life? This year I was able to put in a summer garden in a 6’x30’ space. I planted flowers, kale, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, pole green beans, and strawberries. I also had room for a small herb garden of rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, and lavender. From tiny plants and good organic plant food all grew beautifully large and fruitful. I was tending it all so well until the heat wave came.
Tending to my garden during the heat wave didn’t happen daily. If it did happen, I didn’t spend as much time with my garden as was necessary. My plants suffered and were stressed from the heat and even with water it wasn’t enough to keep leaves from drying up. Much worse than that, some of the leaves on the cucumber plant and the zucchini plant developed powdery mildew. I didn’t notice them at first because they were hidden by the larger leaves. I lost the basil plant; it couldn’t withstand the heat. Two plants also grew too large for the space and infringed on the space of the other smaller plants threatening their survival.
Isn’t this a bit like life when the “heat” turns up? Things get out of balance! In order to tend well to our lives we must be in God’s Word daily. We must remember He rules over and above all things! This is easier to do when all is well in our lives. When the fiery trials come, we can get wrapped up in the stresses they bring. We can lose focus. We can let prayer and reading God’s Word slip. Our souls can wither up a bit as worry and fear threaten to overwhelm our thoughts. We know we must make the greater effort to stay in God’s Word, in prayer, in fellowship with God’s people, and be a voice for righteousness during these times if we are to overcome them. So, too, it is with my garden as I must make the greater effort to get back into it….
And so I went back into my garden and began to tend well to it. As God prunes us for our good, so I, too, pruned my garden for its good. I took out the cucumber plant that is so overgrown and filled with powdery mildew. I didn’t want to lose the zucchini so I gave it a good pruning so the strawberries were no longer threatened by them. I picked the tomatoes and the green beans that were good and then removed these plants as they had so many heat-damaged leaves and were not doing well at all. I trimmed and pruned all into well-tended plants each with their own space. I planted new cucumber seeds, bush green bean seeds, and a smaller variety of tomato in new spots of the garden. I planted a few more flowers, too. I also fed each of the plants again as it was time.
One month later my garden is now thriving. The new cucumber plant is producing cucumbers. The new tomato plant has tomatoes growing on it. The strawberry plants produced many strawberries and are now sending out runners for new plants. Bush green beans are flowering and setting fruit. The kale plants have given me many leaves to pick.
I go out daily again now and examine my plants. I remove the yellowing leaves, remove the occasional green worm that would weaken my plants, and tend to the ants that come seeking water with an organic orange oil spray. Thinking about those ants reminded me of a verse in proverbs. You probably know it. We are told to learn from those ants so here is yet another gardening life lesson for my soul!
Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, o sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”
Have you ever observed the tenacity and the determination of ants? I must say I am getting my fair share of experience in my garden. I don’t use conventional sprays so I am always watching for their presence and doing what I can to limit their activity. They just never give up! They will move from one spot to another! They hide and I must lift up the lower leaves of the plants to find if they are nesting there! Their vigilance to get their work done gets to me some time but I also know their very survival depends on what they do! I can see through them that the well-being of life itself requires this same kind of tenacity, the determination to stand firm and have a “fight back” mentality. I must be wise with the time God has given me. God has called us to be His lights in this world and no matter how dark the world becomes, we must continue to be that light. We must be faithful and persevere to the end. Galatians 6:9 says,
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
God has given us each tasks to do! In Isaiah 58 God calls His people to act according to His righteousness and to let Him lead them, something I, too, heed and follow. God spoke to Isaiah and told him to proclaim LOUDLY the sin of the people. God’s people appeared to be following after God on the outside, but God saw their hearts. God saw through their pretense. They had fasted expecting God to do for them, but they then complained when God remained silent. The whole chapter is worth reading, but I will begin with verse 6 where God explains how proper fasting leads to helping others. It is taking the focus off of ourselves and seeking to aid the afflicted.
“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every bond? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say here I am. If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:6-12
I desire to be His light that breaks out like the dawn. I desire His righteousness to go before me. I desire His glory to be my rear guard. I desire to hear His answer when I cry out. I desire my light to rise in the darkness as He continually leads me. I want to be His well-watered garden whose waters do not fail. I want to be a “rebuilder”, a “repairer” and a “restorer” for all He would grant me to be.
My garden is beautiful right now, but I know that to keep it doing well, I must be vigilant and committed to its care. Only then will it truly flourish! Tend well to the garden of life and it will also do likewise!
God has given us life at this time in history and so, to quote Esther, “for such a time as this”, let us become His well-watered garden whose waters do not fail, but rather rebuild, repair, and restore. Let our lights cut through the darkness! May what we do on the outside for all to see be a true reflection of what God sees on the inside of us. Only then will we be able to flourish!
By Pat Tingwall