I grew up in a home of a gardening aficionado. My mother’s annual mini farm was so impressive, people would walk from all corners of our community to admire her tall corn, huge marigolds, and neverending vines of sugar snap peas.
My mother’s gardening abilities really were, and still are, more than impressive. Maybe you could call her a Produce Powerhouse. My formative years were spent at the kitchen table snapping piles and piles of green beans. We shucked corn, cleaned carrots and parsnips, and so much more. (Well, truth to be told, they shucked corn, cleaned carrots and parsnips and so much more. I never really got past the bean snapping job.)
When I became an adult, I toyed with the idea of following in my mom’s gardening footsteps. As some ancient Native Americans might say, it’s been 306 moons since I became a legal adult. And I’m thinking, in that time, I’ve raised roughly 30 tomatoes.
However, for the 2018 growing season, my girls and I decided we would try again. Inspired by some impressive looking starter plants found at Kala’s Greenhouse in Lima, we eagerly purchased six tomato plants. I’d heard much about container gardening over the years, and I felt relatively confident in my plans to try gardening in large planters, instead of in my non-existent plot of tilled earth. So plant into planters we did, and with anticipation we started watering, watching, and oohing and awing in amazement as little yellow blossoms appeared on plant after plant.
It only took about a week for two of my plants to start showing signs of distress. I consulted the all-knowing internet, and discovered I’d been doing a few things wrong. 1) I planted in old “dirt” (you know, the stuff that comes in a bag from the store- that kind of dirt.) and 2) I was over watering. Even though I had invested money in these plants and had a strong desire to see fruitful success, I was failing in some very important areas. I wasn’t investing properly in the specific things these plants needed to properly grow.
So, what did I do? I bought a larger pot, new soil, and planned to replant my struggling plants in a better environment. Except, it never happened because I…got…busy.
A few weeks into my so-called tomato farming endeavor, our neighbor, Susan Wang, hired my teenage daughters to tend her garden while her family enjoyed an out of town vacation. Susan has designed a self watering system, has multiple custom made raised beds in her backyard, and follows a daily regimen to fight tomato worms and other garden damaging creatures. The day my girls attended their “garden care training” with Susan, they came home a little overwhelmed. There was going to be so much to do every single day just to keep this garden thriving! But Susan is an excellent teacher, and after learning the right techniques, my daughters found themselves enjoying the time they spent in this plush world of peppers, peas, cucumbers, and never ending vines.
These days, Susan is starting to pull in a nice daily harvest. No one can accuse me of trying to keep up with the Joneses (or in this case, the Wangs), because to date, I’ve plucked 6 cherry tomatoes, and have watched all but one of my plants fail to produce anything more than the little yellow blossoms (which in time withered and disappeared.)
I put in the minimal amount of work, yet expected maximum results.
Meanwhile, my neighbor spent months planning, planting, monitoring, watering, and protecting, and she will reap a far different bounty.
In so many ways, these same applications can be applied to our Christian faith. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say he or she believes in God. In fact, a Pew research study indicates 80% of Americans say they do. But I wonder how many of those respondents are investing what it takes to form a true relationship with our Amazing Creator? Stop and ask yourself how you’re doing in that area. I know I need to do so. How much of my daily life is devoted to fertilizing my life in Christ? And how often am I starting off with good intentions, but then failing to invest the needed time to deepen my spiritual walk?
A garden needs dedication, nourishment, and ongoing effort in order to grow a bountiful harvest. We need devotion to a plan, spiritual nourishment, and an ongoing focus on Jesus in order to grow bountifully in Him.
What are the necessary components to “growing” a garden of faith?
- Commitment and diligence. It’s easy to say we’ll do something. We need to be dedicated to doing what we say we will do.
- Establish the musts. What should you make a non-negotiable in your daily life? Here are a few ideas: no morning coffee until there’s been 5 minutes of morning prayer; no reading the social media feeds until reading at least a chapter in the Bible. Commiting to communicating with God the moment you awake, and before you get out of bed.
- Create a “watering” schedule. Plants need regular watering for proper growth. We need regular doses of things like Scripture reading and prayer to grow as well. Life is busy these days! If you don’t plan Bible reading and prayer into your daily schedule, there’s a good chance it will be forgotten, or done in haste.
- Fill your “garden” with like minded individuals. Who creates the makeup of your social life? What movies do you generally chose to watch? Think through your music choices. Psalm 101:3 says: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” Take an inventory of your surroundings and ask yourself if you’re living in an environment that encourages you to live for Christ or the opposite. Then, make adjustments as needed.
- Commit to a life of serving. Matthew 20:28 reminds us that “Jesus came not to be served, but to serve…” We, too, are called to serve others. When we make serving a joyful and regular part of our lifestyle, we think less upon ourselves and more on being the hands and feet of Jesus to others.
- Forgive yourself when needed, and then start again. We live in a fallen world and we are sinful people who fight temptations of the flesh. Even with the strongest commitment, there will be days when you fail yourself, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve also failed God. But rest assured, God wants to be by your side for the long haul. Hebrews 12:1 assures us: “So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment, that is, the sin which so easily hampers our forward movement, and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us.”
I will certainly win no prizes in any vegetable contests this year. But fortunately, tending to my spiritual garden isn’t dependent on my green thumb (or lack thereof.) As the summer harvest continues, I certainly hope you have a chance to enjoy it, whether it be from your own backyard, or an area farmer’s market. But please, don’t forget the importance of growing yourself closer to Christ. It’s an appetite that can’t be satisfied by anything other than Jesus Himself.