If you missed the confessional on my sad first attempt at gardening in last week’s post, you can check it out here.
I realize as autumn begins and the remnants of my garden are now uprooted with the soil sitting dormant, I had even less of an idea of what I was doing than I thought when I started this little plot in my backyard a few months ago.
The day that my dad came with the tools to put the foundation together, I frantically went to the greenhouse to pick out something to put inside of it. There was no plan. I just wanted a garden. So I returned home with five different vegetables to nurture and harvest, and little to no idea of what I needed to do to make that happen. I knew nothing about the spinach, broccoli, or carrots, but I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. I’d give them soil, sun, and water. What more did I need to know?
It turns out I needed to know a little more than what they looked like in the produce section of the grocery store to help them grow properly. I learned through trial and error some key things about each plant’s personality. Give spinach the proper amount of space to grow and to avoid choking each other out; be able to identify the difference between a carrot leaf and a weed; do not let broccoli go too long before harvesting or it will turn into a wild mess.
My naive belief system about gardening in the early days was as foolish as believing that all a mother must do to successfully raise a child is to eat, clothe, and provide shelter for her young one. There is so much more to it if the child is to grow into his or her full potential. In the short two and a half years I’ve been a mother I’ve figured out a couple of things: there is so much that books, givers of advice, and life experience just can’t tell me about how to raise my child.
For starters, I have to love my son. I do my best to lovingly provide for his needs, but then I work to go beyond that by spending time with him. If I see an area where he’s struggling, I support him and educate him on how to improve. When he’s ready to take on a new milestone, I encourage him to accomplish his goal and then help him reach for the next one.
When I look at love this way, I acknowledge that I didn’t do a great job of loving my garden. I know that my son is infinitely more important than my garden, but I believe that God is using both in my life to teach me some truths about my own spiritual condition. I must cherish my relationship with God and love the bond that He and I share so much that I give it the time and encouragement it needs. I cannot leave it be, but I must observe it’s strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to tend to it as it grows. Otherwise, weeds can sneak in and soak up some nutrients I need; lack of care could cause growing knowledge to go wild and not only be useless, but embarrassingly messy looking.
Feeling love towards my garden is not enough. I have to put that love into action. Another truth I’ve learned in parenting is that I must know and accept my child for the unique person that he is. While how-to books may open my eyes to a fresh perspective when I’m stumped on how to teach him, feed him, or discipline him, I have to remember that none of those authors know my child’s personality and particular set of circumstances.
I watched my garden die as I skimmed gardening books and tutorials on how to tend to specific plants in my garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t always allow for the situations that were exclusive to where my garden is located. While my neighbor’s gardens seemed to be thriving, nothing about their methods seemed to work on my garden.
How often do women attempt to function by the compare and copy method? “She gets up and reads her Bible at 4:00 A.M., so that means I must do that to be right with Jesus.” “Her kids always eat healthy food, so I have to throw away all of my kid’s treats.” “I can’t begin to look as gorgeous as she does, but if I go on the same diet that she did, I might start to match up a little.”
In reality, compare and copy does not work in situations of personal growth because we each have a unique, intimate relationship with God. It’s important to learn from others, but to allow that to become the focus rather than growing a stronger relationship with Christ is an exhausting, futile attempt at something that is missing the mark entirely.
How is your garden? Do you know the characteristics and causes that brought you to your garden’s current state? The beautiful truth of the matter is even if you do not have all of the answers to raising a bountiful spiritual garden, you can start with what you know, give it to God, and ask Him to grant you wisdom to start doing it the right way.
My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
8 He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
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