lessons from gardening on the kingdom

This year, I will be planting a vegetable patch in my garden. It should have cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, herbs & the like. I planted one last year, with a shameful variety of strangely coloured & misshapen almost-vegetables, however I’m ready with a new vigour this growing season, and am determined to have a fresh salad, which I can sow, grow and enjoy.

My grandpa will be coming to live with us as well during the summer, and gardening has always been our distinctive commonality. We enjoy roughing the dirt, placing seed and admiring the harvest. He learned gardening from his parents, immigrants who had learned from their parents, as well how to grow their own food. It wasn’t misplaced, it was commonplace then. My grandpa is someone who early on decided to be good at a few things in life, and enjoying nature, as well as gardening, is one of them.

He taught me carrots are high maintenance; that they need the right type and amount of sand and soil to grow well, as well as that, a heavy rain might knock down the small seedlings which pop up in the first couple of weeks after the seed has germinated. After the storms leave to another sky, the gardener goes out to his garden & picks up gently the seedlings, giving them room to breathe and stand again. Helpless there, the small sprouts have a need the gardener meets.

Jesus talked much on how the Kingdom is like a garden. Talking to the disciples & the crowd, he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
(Matthew 13:31-32)

Like tiny mustard seeds, the Kingdom grows into a home for many, giving way to a living structure much bigger than all else in the garden. Your life is like a garden; the choices we make & the paths we take in life are those choices to water or leave dry; dig or leave unbroken; plant or be barren; enjoy fruit or hunger. Like Jesus talking about the Small Path and the Large Path, there’s something about gardening that my Grandpa taught me which illuminated the simplicity of how life in the Kingdom works, from how Jesus described it. This is how he taught me to garden:

    I. Space
We all have the same space in our gardens. Time is time, & until Marty McFly takes you to the high school dance or you happen to survive past the event horizon in a black hole, we’re all on the same tracks. Space and placement is important when gardening, because certain plants demand a certain amount of space. You can’t plant carrots under corn, because the corn will overshadow it.

Likewise, that which we put in our life needs a certain amount of space. Sometimes, we overcrowd the land we have available with overcommitting and leaving no margin to breathe. Number 1 culprit right here will be the first to tell you it’s not worth it, no matter how much you feel you’re able to cram into your space. Harvest doesn’t taste as great when all your plants don’t have the light & attention they need, and your commitments are the same. Jesus talks about the type of anxiety that comes from worrying about your space, when he said “Can any one of you by worrying add a single day to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)

    II. Sowing

When we have the space we need for the seeds we have, we take care to plant them in the way the seeds truly need to be cared for. Cucumbers need mounds while tomatoes need ladders, and the bulbs onions grow from look far different than lettuce seeds. Similarly, we’re called to be good stewards & givers of our resources. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Jesus spoke the same way when telling the parable of the sower, who casts seeds in different soil, not seeing growth from all his giving, but faithful in giving from his seed bag. We’re beckoned towards caring well for our seeds, and casting them without self-preservation. Sowing is one of the great mediums of humility; one can’t be proud when digging in the dirt, caring for small seeds barely bigger than a pinhead.
    III. Watering

Plants tend to be pretty thirsty, and it takes regular visiting with a water hose & a good deal of patience to spread life across all that’s growing in your space. Water reinvigorates and enlivens your plants; you can always tell the difference between a well watered and an under watered garden. Jesus, when speaking to the woman at the well, said, “Drink of my water, and you will never thirst again.” Likewise, we drink the good stuff when being bathed in our true calling.

Water for us comes through rest, when we bask in something (someone) bigger than we are, and remain quiet so we might listen to the whispers of what we’re purposed for. Watering reminds, straightens, guides and enlivens.

    IV. Harvest

Jesus talked much about harvesting, and it all had to do with the people around you. A harvest never just happens for one person, it happens for many. In fact, the harvest is the best part about why we garden. All the time spent sowing, watering, tending and pruning culminates into salads, laughs and memories which last through winter, to the next time of planting.

Harvest is the practice of sharing that which we have with those in our spaces - the ones who’ve been planted around us. A garden is a community, and growing together is a special thing. Harvesting reminds us there’s an end to every season; it’s crucial as well as healthy to take a break, enjoy the fruit of the work of the past and consider sweetly what God has for the future - with others.

Who’s in your garden? What takes up your space? Are you choked away from the sun, parched without water? Are you sowing and stewarding the seeds only you have? Your garden, and how you fit in it, is so important. We embrace space because God made space for us; sow because he gives us the seeds to do so; water because his is the stuff which will never leave us thirsty; harvest because there’s a bigger dinner coming soon.

Enjoy the process, gardeners. He loves you.

*This was originally posted here on Chapel - a splendid publication about more on the Kingdom & how to live life well. Check them out.