Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.
Lessons in the Garden
I recently moved my residence. The new home is very bright and open and will be a delight, but the yard has been abandoned for years, due to the illness of the person who lived here before. The plants that seed and spread themselves have spread and spread; the plants that need pruning and tending to flourish have languished and been eaten on by insects and snails, and it is not clear which of them can be restored as yet. And there are a number of volunteer plum trees growing from plums fallen to the ground and seeding themselves.
Despite the huge task it seemed to restore the yard, I was excited about the prospect because it presents the possibility of almost starting from scratch, once things are cleared, and being able to plant my favorites. I haven’t had a viable place to garden for quite a while, and I began to realize how much I miss it.
SO, I went out on Monday morning to spend a couple of hours before having to get ready for work. I looked around and saw that everything needed help; where shall I begin, Lord? I decided to take it in sections, starting with clearing the area along the back fence. Then I could see the newness from the breakfast table and be encouraged to proceed. I started on the tangle of plants that were those that spread themselves and filled the beds to overflowing. It didn’t take long to discover what an intense snarl they had created, and how hard it was to clear that ground. But bit by bit they gave way.
In the past when I have worked in the yard, it has been a time of the Lord teaching me as I worked along, and that began to happen this morning, too. As I was marveling at how thickly tangled the plants were, and how much time and effort it was going to take, He said: “That is how the debris around your heart is—thickly tangled and resistant to clearing.” It really hit, and I could see the similarity instantly. A few minutes later He said: “You have wondered why it has taken so long to do the clearing of debris. This is why. The tangle is dense, and it takes great energy and dedication to remove it.”
I have so often marveled at how long it has taken me to hear through and really “get” certain things that the Lord has been working on for some time. It is difficult to describe, but as He made the link with this neglected garden, it got okay with me that it had taken all the time it has. I could just agree with Him that it was worth the time and effort—both the clearing of debris in my heart, and the clearing of the beds that would one day hold new growth and its beauty. I felt a profound peace and deep gratefulness for the Lord’s EXTENSIVE investment in me and for His tireless working within.
After about an hour of pulling plants from the tangle, which probably involves over 100 feet of beds, I decided to change focus to pruning and bailing out of the pyracantha, through which three volunteer plum trees had grown, and developed enough to have trunks that had to be sawed off. The volunteer plums were useless; the pyracantha with some care could sport its orange berries, take on its true green, and thrive. I noticed that the roots of the volunteer plums mixed with the roots of the pyracantha and made it more difficult to remove the unwanted and choking plants that no one planned or wanted to be there.
Once again the Lord showed me the similarity between the garden and our lives. Those seeds taking root and growing up a tree that choked the planned growth, was like the arguments and suggestions, the plantings of the enemy, which are designed to choke the life and growth the Lord authors. The seeds are not invited or wanted, but unless tracked and prevented, they grow up and choke the plant, mar the beauty, and present sizeable obstacles to restoration (Mt. 13:24,25). Once they have a solid footing, they are difficult to get out. I had to dig and dig, go around all sides to finally uproot and remove those invading seedlings that had already or were turning into trees, and have a care not to damage the plant I was saving.
When that bailing out was accomplished, the pyrachantha looked very different, like it could breathe. If plants could communicate, it would have been expressing gratitude for the release, much like the gratitude we feel when the Lord lights up, breaks and removes bondages we have been used to living with and have learned to manage. The difference between managing them and having them removed and the space freed is remarkable, but we often don’t realize the difference until it happens. It was very evident that the clearing gave the pyracantha a new lease on life.
My time available for the garden was running out, and I had to clean up, get the pruned and yanked debris in the trash bin, put my tools away, and head toward the day of meetings and listening, and watching what the Lord would do in the garden of lives. I went into the day with these lessons settling in, encouraging and energizing me with the Lord’s priorities and ways.
There is much more to do, and many more lessons, but I did also decide to hire my 17 year old grandson to help with the clearing, as his strength exceeds mine, and it will shorten the time before the planting of new things can begin. That is a lesson, too, of calling for reinforcements when the battle is intense and lengthy.
Praise God for His encouraging take on things, no matter how daunting the step at hand seems to us at the moment!
Love in Jesus,