The Garden Teaches us Life Lessons
The garden teaches us many things about life. It teaches us about patience. It takes time for a blackberry bush to grow, to flower and to produce fruit. My blackberry bush is three years old and I think this year I may harvest 20-30 blackberries. Last year we picked 4. Another lesson the garden teaches us is discernment. We must learn to distinguish between plants that will produce food, and plants that will not–of course I am referring to weeds! If we allow the weeds to grow, they will choke out the young tomato and pepper plants. These two lessons are fairly obvious. The third lesson the garden teaches us is a much harder lesson.
Fussy Plants are like Fussy People
There are many vegetables that you cannot transplant from containers purchased at your local nursery. These are fussy plants, finicky like some of our children. They take a little extra time and attention–you need to baby them, treat them tenderly for a while. They don’t like to be moved and must be planted from seeds. For example okra likes warm soil, long beans need to be trellised, peas need cold air, beets, carrots and radishes all need well drained sandy soil. These are just a few of my fussy veggies in my garden this year. As I have become more confident and daring, I have begun to learn the art of sowing seeds. I take the time to prepare the good earth. I am not afraid to get dirty, to dig out the rocks in the soil, and to make nice rows for my seeds. I pay attention to the seasons and try to pick just the right time to sow my seeds. Yet even as we learn to sow, we must also learn one of the hardest lessons of all–we must learn how to reap. Not the kind of reaping we all enjoy at harvest time; the kind of reaping that breaks my heart. I have had to learn to decide which seedlings will live and which will die.
The Joy of Spouting Seeds
When the seedlings emerge from the soil my heart leaps for joy. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. I call my kids out to the garden, I summon my neighbors and friends over, “Come and see my baby peas, my little radish spouts, my wisps of carrots”. Everyone crouches down to the ground with me and smiles at the new life that is springing forth from the earth. Little do they know, I will have to pluck up more than half of the seeds that have sprouted to make enough room for the seedlings to grow and mature into adult fruit bearing plants.
Compassion isn’t always what we think it is.
The first year I could not thin my okra. I let all the seedlings grow. The plants that had room to grow produced lovely okra. The ones who had a sister plant right next to them were thin and leggy and did not produce a single okra pod. What I thought I was was compassion, was really not. I thought by sparing the life of these little seedlings, I would have more of what I wanted–in this case okra. But because I avoided making the hard choice early on, my okra garden was not productive at all. What I thought was the compassionate choice was in fact counterproductive.
And so now I thin my beets, my carrots, my okra, and my radishes. I thin all my seedlings all in one day. I look to see which plants are the hardiest, and the rest I pluck, pull, uproot, and pinch off. I say a prayer while I do this difficult task and I think about being very clear about what I want in life.
Thinning Out Too Much of a Good Thing
The garden lesson of thinning out to make space for growth is one we can use in our daily lives. Sometimes we have too much of a good thing. A little TV can be a good thing, too much TV will choke out the rest of what life has to offer. A couple of activities for our kids keeps them healthy and strong, too many activities makes us harried and dissatisfied. A little ice-cream makes a summer day cool and lovely. Too much ice cream, cake, candy, and soda makes a country of kids struggling with obesity. Like seedlings, we need room to breath, room to grow, room to catch the rays of the sun. The demands of this American Life will easily stretch us too thin. In the end we will produce little because we did not have the heart to choose which things will give us life, and which things will detract from it.
Good Intentions don’t always Produce Good Results
Jesus talks about this dilemma in Matthew 13:24-26.
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
We often plan our life with good intentions. We work hard to make sure we have the right balance of work and play, but it seems before we know it, someone in the night came and sowed weeds in our garden. Now is the time for us to choose what to do about it. How do you deal with hard choices?
Do you avoid the hard choices?
Do you avoid making hard decisions in your life? Some people avoid making those choices and then those unwanted weeds end up growing right alongside their good intentions and they wonder why their life did not produce a bountiful harvest. Some people can’t bear the thought of failing so they don’t plant the seeds of hope in the first place. They give up before they even start. Then there are the daring ones, those of us who choose carefully what we want to harvest and we will thin out what is not important in our life. We will say “no” at just the right time, and we will learn how to thrive in the good earth of our life.
My garden teaches me this lesson every year. I hope that you will take the time to determine what you are growing in your garden of life. What your life really needs to thrive and what you can give up and thin out. I pray that you will be daring enough to thin out the “too much” of your life so that you will have plenty of room to breathe, to grow, and to soak in the sun so that your harvest may be abundant enough to share.