This protracted period of social distancing and caution has been difficult on many of us. It’s heartbreaking to go without seeing family and friends for such a long stretch of time, and stressful to be without access to many amenities we typically enjoy. But as we know from scripture, times of adversity are also opportunities. In this case, it’s an opportunity for both spiritual, and literal growth.
This is the perfect time to cultivate a garden, a small herb box on the windowsill, or even a small plant. Whatever your space, budget, and ability allows, what matters is finding a way to focus on what is important in our lives.
Gardening as a Christian activity
This might seem like a non-sequitur. What does gardening have to do with growing as a Christian? But there is a real connection to be made in caring for the earth and natural splendor God has created. It is a reminder both of our responsibilities as Christians to be a positive force for good wherever we can be, and of God’s sovereignty over the earth. Growing something, helping to bring new life and abundance where there was none before, is a reminder of the miracle of creation and how lucky we are to be a part of it.
Gardening, whether you’re tending to a large crop or a single flower is an act of patience. In a world defined by instant access and immediate feedback, gardening is something that cannot be rushed. There are no short cuts taking a plant from seed to bloom. It’s a reflective process, one that takes patience and perspective, two qualities that are in all too short supply these days.
It’s also never a guarantee. Gardening can be uncertain. Not every seed takes, not every plant produces the fruit we want or the amount we expect. This is also a lesson, the world does not work to our timetable or our expectations, it works to God’s. While nobody enjoys disappointment, gardening can teach you to accept it and move on. One plant might fail, another will bloom even more spectacularly - we do what we can but ultimately the final say is always God’s.
A practical pastime
There are other practical lessons to be learned from gardening. Thrift is one. Taking the scraps of one meal (the last nub of ginger, the ends of green onions), planting them in the soil, and eventually harvesting them to be their own meal is a wonderful thing. It’s an incredibly rewarding process that teaches us to never be wasteful with the gifts that God has given us.
It’s also joyful! Especially in this time when supplies in grocery stores are limited and just popping out to a store or restaurant isn’t an option for many. Growing your own herbs and fresh vegetables can be a welcome way to spruce up your meals! There is something incredibly satisfying about kicking up your pasta sauce to the next level by picking off a few leaves of basil you grew in your windowsill, or even better, making the sauce from your own tomatoes. God gave us a world of flavor and abundance, enjoy it! Celebrate it!
Gardening can also give us structure in a time when that is absent for many of us. Having a routine to check the garden or pots, water them, maybe do some light pruning here or there can help provide direction and stability in a very uncertain time. If you’ve been spending your days listless and worrying, even looking after a small plant or two can help improve your mood. Anxiety and fear left unchecked can become an obstacle between you and God, whatever helps reduce them is an undeniably good thing.
Looking to the future
Perhaps one of the most positive aspects of gardening is that it always gives you something to look forward to, something to mark time with. A sapling planted now is not much to look at. By the end of the season it might only be a twig. In a year, if you’re lucky, it will be a stick with a few shoots. But while you’re not looking, somehow, in a few years that little stick will become a tree that is bearing fruit. A few more, and you can hang a swing off of it for whichever little ones are in your life at that time, be they children or grandchildren. By the time those kids have outgrown swings, that tree will provide lush shade with long branches and healthy leaves. We plant the seeds of our future today.
Yes, we are living in some very trying times right now, but we can trust in God that there are better days to come. Give your future self something to look back on, a positive thing to come out of a dark time. Cultivate today for a better tomorrow.