I have always desired a beautiful vegetable garden of my own. Over the past 6.5 years living in a condo, I have become very creative and made the most of our 12’x5’ patio. This past spring, I spent a lot of time mixing the soil, planting the seeds, watering the seedlings, and pulling the weeds. When planting a garden, it is exciting, and the hope of a beautiful mature garden draws me outside each day to check on each new growth, new fruit, new flower. It is also a lot of time and work, but a garden results in abundance peace for me. Each time I get an opportunity to sit out in my garden or look out the window, I am satisfied and my body and mind relax.
In response to this care and dedication and time, my garden always produces good fruit for Jesse and I to eat. We have had abundant tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries this year. The fruits are delicious and have fed my family well.
This summer Jesse and I were out of town for the majority of 3 months. Much of it was because a family emergency where we needed to be with Jesse’s dad in the hospital. Praise God we had the freedom to be with him as he recovered from a life-threatening infection.
While we were away, I didn’t give my garden the level of attention it needed. My affection started to fade. Some plants continued to produce for a while, but not in the quantities that were their potential. Weeds grew, leaves died, plants were water or fertilizer deprived, whole parts of plants snapped because they were not properly supported, and other plants died completely because of a lack of my time and attention. The worse my garden looked, the less I desired to care for it and water it. Instead of a place of peace, it was a place of stress because of the time and energy it would take to restore it. I made excuses to myself as to why I was too busy to fix it. And thus became a downward spiral.
Today I decided enough was enough. I knew it would take time and hard work to restore what was once beautiful and peaceful, but I decided to stop the downward spiral. This morning I pruned away the dead leaves and branches, trained the vines back to the trellis, fertilized the plants, and cleaned up the lost plants. It was a serious overhaul, but I know it’s the only thing that would get my garden back on track. The only way to restore it back to peace and tranquility was time and work.
I believe relationships are like this garden. At the beginning of a relationship, we find joy in spending time with the other person. We care for them. There is excitement because of the hope of a great relationship and much happiness and fruit are created. But then something, usually busyness if I’m being honest, detracts us from spending the needed time with that person. And our attention moves to other things. The closeness that we once enjoyed with that person starts to fade. Sometimes whole branches of activities we once enjoyed together fall off and die. Instead of looking forward to spending time with the other person, we start feeling guilty or stressed because we know it will take a lot of time and work to restore the relationship. So we ignore it.
Until one day we can’t ignore it any more.
I am talking to myself here, but so often this can happen in our relationship with God. We can have a “mountaintop” experience and experience abundant fruit and peace in our lives, but then through neglect, inattentiveness, and guilt, we slowly start drifting away. At first it doesn’t seem to matter. We may still see some fruit in our lives. But not nearly as much as our potential. Then the weeds start to creep in. The weeds are lies from the enemy. We start focusing on the weeds and they replace the fruit that we once knew in our garden.
When I am afraid or angry or letting other sin into my life, I can always trace it back to neglecting my garden, my time with my Savior, Jesus Christ. Through distraction, busyness, neglect, my time with Jesus each morning has diminished or vanished and while I didn’t notice myself slipping away from him, I look up one day and I am miles from where I once was: wrapped in His arms, hearing His will for my life, and comforted by his grace and love. Where there was once fruit, there is only weeds.
The good news is that God never moved away. He has been patiently waiting in the garden for us. It only takes a decision, an action, to come back to Him and restore that relationship. Sure it may take several hours or a day or more to sit quietly in the presence of the Savior and allow him to “clean up” our hearts and restore the garden of our souls. But it’s worth it. Because God is not in the business of condemning us or making us feel guilty. He is the God of restoration, of love, and of peace.
If your garden today is looking a little wild, neglected, or not fulfilling it’s full potential, spend time today with God in His Word and let him do the work to heal your soul. Then renew your focus and discipline to meet him there in the garden, each day.