I grew up with a big garden in my back yard. Rows of green beans, corn, squash, raspberry bushes, tomatoes… looking back, it was a wonderful thing. So a couple years ago my wife Emily and I were inspired to start our own garden. Nowhere near as large as the garden I grew up with – something more “manageable” I thought. My job growing up was weeding and picking – so I had no first-hand experience with the work of actually preparing the garden.
Our yard up here is home to a group of 4 to 8 deer depending on the evening, so we knew we’d need a fence. Our research claimed deer could jump over 6 feet worth of fencing, so we needed to go higher. With each strike of the post hole digger, I grew in my respect for the actual farmers of the world. Gaining an inch at a time and new blisters on my hands, I finally dug the 6 holes I needed. The fence went up, the door was made and I was proud of the new enclosed garden… but we had yet to touch the soil.
We knew this land had been used as pasture for horses, pigs, and cows – but never for planting. And knowing now how difficult it was to dig the posts – we needed a rototiller. Again, online to research the most affordable, dependable, strong… yeah – let’s rent and see how it goes. So, I fired up the rototiller, its little Honda engine purring, pulled the lever to engage the tines – and… they skipped off the surface like it was concrete rather than soil. With much sweat, more blisters, a sunburn, two tanks of gas, and 3 hours later I finally achieved tilling the small 150 square feet of soil.
With moderate success for our first go at planting a garden, we set out this year to do it again. No more holes to dig, the fence still stood – so all there really was to do, was to get my hands on the rototiller again to work up the soil and we’d be ready to plant. Bracing myself for more blisters and a sunburn, I fired up the little machine – but rather than skip off the surface, the tines dug right in – turning up the soil with little resistance. Pleased with my work, and only 20 minutes later, we were ready to plant.
As I worked this year on the garden, I saw the image in my mind of God as gardener. The Bible is full of farming imagery (vines and branches, casting seed into soil, producing fruit…) and I began to see a parable of sorts before me. In my life God, through his grace, has continued to work to grow me to be more and more like Jesus.
Like my garden, at first the work is hard, very hard, and the progress is slow. When we seek God’s growth in our lives, on things like generosity, being open-handed, patience, purity, self-control… we make progress, but it is slow. And like most times when we make progress, there are seasons when we take steps backward, yet God returns and works the “soil” up again, and progress is made with less struggle than the first time.
As much pleasure as I get of seeing the fruit of my efforts with the garden, I believe God is even more pleased when we invite him to work in our lives.
Like the first year of our garden, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to soften the soil enough to allow the growth we desired. Yet, progress was made, and even a little success, shown by the fruit and vegetables we were able to harvest. But over the winter the soil again hardens. Like most times when we make progress, there are seasons where we take steps backward. Yet, God returns and works up the soil again, and progress is made.
Greg Ruby | Production Director