What is it about a garden that draws people? What is it that makes it this gathering place, this community place, where people want to be and to listen, whether they consider themselves gardeners or not?
I’ll venture a guess…I know you’re surprised…but the garden exhibits the life cycle in this really tangible and short term way. A way in which we don’t always get to witness in our much longer lifespan.
In Florida gardens we get two growing seasons. So twice every year we can observe this life cycle. First there is the preparation of the earth, something we will be engaging in today. To give the plants their best start and potential, the earth must first be prepared for the seed. So we till it, shifting the top soil and softening the earth for the seeds to take root. Often pulling up weeds and growth that doesn’t produce good fruit. In this way we shape the environment to be as beneficial as possible for our little seed.
Of course, preparing the earth isn’t the only step. We must also plant the seeds, fertilize and water them, and then tend to them as they grow. More weeds may come, despite our initial effort, and those will need to be plucked out. Likely they will need to continue to be fed and watered. And depending on the kind of plant, perhaps more or different kinds of care are required.
And even when we get all that just right, we are not guaranteed a beautiful crop. There are a slew of unpredictable variables…weather chief among them. In the garden we will see today, they’ve unfortunately experienced theft and vandalism of the garden. Birds and other animals could come and pillage our carefully laid seed. Many things could prevent a bountiful harvest.
Some of you may be familiar with a story Jesus told, often called the parable of the sower, recorded in the book of Matthew. In this story he describes a farmer who is spreading his seed. He says that some gets eaten by the birds, and some doesn’t root well and withers in the sun, some gets choked out by the weeds, but that some grows into an unexpectedly abundant harvest.
This is surely quite accurate of what might have happened in the life of a first century farmer or gardener. However, as Jesus is want to do, he is actually describing something deeper. He’s talking about how a concept or message or truth can be shared with different kinds of people, and in some really take root and be the most amazing thing they have ever heard. And on the other hand, just glance right off of people and never sink in…for a myriad of reasons.
I’m guessing my teachers can identify with this. You’re in your class teaching, perhaps something you’ve taught many times before, and you’ve seen it just go right over their heads. They stare at you with that vacant, glazey eyed look, and you just know you’re not making contact. And then there are the other times. The times when there is almost a visible light that goes off. That amazing moment where the synapse connects, and bam! They get it.
And like in gardening, you’re often counting on that soil to have been tended ahead of you. Like they graduated from high school knowing some basics. Though that isn’t always fool proof, right? Pun totally intended.
We can zoom out even more broadly than that and look at gardening as a metaphor for our whole life. How we were tended and prepared for life makes a huge impact on who we become. What our household was like, what our educational opportunities were like, etc. Did we have a nice, neat well tended raised bed? Or was it more like a lone seed growing in the wild.
And what about how we were fed and watered? How many weeds were plucked out of our lives…or not? Are we still tended to? What are the things that make us feel cared for…watered and fed?
Perhaps just as importantly…what kind of gardeners are we being? What are we planting in our own lives and those of our children or other people we influence? What are we investing time and money into, and what kind of crop will it yield?
Waiting…productivity…what if you didn’t wait?
What is is about waiting? From time to time a slogan will come out about good things coming to those who wait. But for the most part our society tells us that waiting is a waste of time. Its unproductive, non-essential, and there must be a way to work around it. We live in a time where technological advances are increasing exponentially, and if you have to wait more than a few seconds for you webpage to load we are cursing, quitting or complaining. We don’t like to wait.
But why? Perhaps its not surprising that studies have been done on this. What do you think is the root of why we don’t like to wait?
A funny aside…do you know why they put mirrors in elevators and escalators? People were complaining about the time it took to make whichever trip. They put in mirrors and people stopped complaining! Use our vanity to fight our impatience…brilliant.
As for why we don’t want to wait, studies seem to indicate it actually comes down to fairness. We don’t think its fair that we should have to spend our valuable time waiting. Our time is worth more than that, we are worth more than that. And heaven forbid if someone where to cut the line in which we are waiting…history tells us, and traffic too, that’s enough to provoke violence…even murder in a couple of cases. We hold fairness in very high regard!
And in some ways, I think that’s appropriate. A basic understanding of what’s fair and decent keeps our society from collapsing into some post-apocalyptic, Walking Dead version of society. But what if there was another option. There’s an idea that’s been nagging me lately, and I’m not totally sure what to do with it, but it goes something like this. What if we lived in and taught our children, etc, a culture of generosity and serving instead of fairness? What would it look like if we thought more about how our neighbor doesn’t have enough than whether we had the largest piece of the american pie allowable by law. What if we were a little less worried about our fair share and a little more concerned about everyone having enough?
And don’t give me the credit for this idea…there was this revolutionary a couple thousand years ago that was preaching this anywhere he could. Even if it meant his life. Jesus was always talking about not worrying about what you have…the lili’s of the felid and the birds of the air…sell everything you have…etc.
I think there’s another lesson in here in the waiting. We’re so worried about eliminating it and the injustice that goes with it, we haven’t even thought about the value of it. I think gardeners probably know this better than the rest of us. But its in the waiting that your little seed becomes delicious produce. The waiting is what allows it time to become its best self and and mature into what it was meant to be. And you know what happens if you pull up your carrots to see if they’re ready yet? They will stop growing and maturing and never be what they could have been if given the time to mature. Your apples won’t be sweet, your potatoes will be small, your grapes will be sour.
Can we live a life where its okay to give our garden, and people for that matter, enough time to mature? Or will we always be a slave to our worry about what is fair?