In the early light of this Spring morning, I survey my garden. Hot coffee warms my chilled hands. Birds line up along the edge of the fence and sit in the leafy, budding plum tree. The squirrels peer and chatter from the branches of the fig and apple trees, letting me know I’m late. They wait for the thistle, peanuts and cracked corn they expect me to toss out for them.
From my seat at the patio table, I see that the new plants I have carefully placed in the earth, along with the returning perennials, are thriving and sending up their tender shoots. The time, energy, sweat and joy that fertilized them is paying off. It is exciting to see new life and growth return after a season of quiet resting.
Mother Nature begins her whispering and coaxing, and the tender new growth responds. So much happens below the surface, before these tender stems and leaves are ready to push upward and outward. Root systems are established and require a certain amount of strength and depth before sending up the shoots. It’s all carefully orchestrated and set in motion when the Creator determines the timing is just right.
As I admire my garden, a thought begins to take shape in my mind, and I wonder where Jesus is going with it. What if the fellow humans I encounter in life, are like a garden of the soul? I start with a plot of earth and carefully turn, work, and fertilize the dirt with time, tears, laughter, and love. As I bump up against these people, I smile in delight as I find just the ones to add to my soul garden. They fit perfectly! I scoop them up, carefully and gently planting them; nurturing, and tending, removing weeds and obstacles, giving time and attention. I watch as tendrils of common interest, branches of stability and longevity, flowers of laughter, buds of adventure, and the fragrance of kindness and vulnerability perfume my garden. Everything blends well and the beauty is nourishing to my soul. Peaceful. Safe. I belong.
However, not all the flowers and bushes are thriving and healthy in my soul garden. Some are old, spent and have lived out their flowering season, taking up the space where another might thrive. The annuals were there for a season and won’t return but leave behind nice memories. Some have become hardened, woody, and impenetrable, no longer blooming, or showing any growth. Others stubbornly resist any sort of pruning, fertilizing or change and stay stumped and thwarted, no longer lovely. The Master Gardener says it is time to begin weeding.
Weeding the soul garden can be sad, hard, and frightening, but necessary. I get to choose, and so do you, who and what is allowed to take up space there. These choices can mean life, joy and flourishing for our souls or stunted growth, disappointment and hurt. There is a lot that is bound up in the roots of who I allow in that sacred place. Layer upon layer of energy, laughter, tears, shared history, and effort are mixed and blended to keep it all alive. The dying back, pruning and even the uprooting of those that were carefully planted, can be brutal and harsh, leaving a hole and a void for loneliness to sprout up.
I believe that Jesus views that hole and the loneliness as a prime plot of land in which to plant Himself. It is impossible to have a need that He cannot meet. In the loneliness of the weeding season, He will pour into us all of Himself. He is enough. We are seen, we are safe, and we are known. Our needs will be met, and our roots will be strengthened and built up for the growing season that is to come. The dirt in our soul garden will be nurtured and watered with His wisdom, healing, and joy, but He will sift, filter, and discard all that is not in sync with His master plan. That is painful, yet we know there is beauty in this pain. He knows why a once vibrant and healthy-looking part of our soul garden now needs to be pruned or uprooted and completely removed. He sees all that is going on underneath the surface, where growth takes place and roots either thrive or rot. He knows when our souls need a respite from nurturing others, so we can be nurtured, replenished, and tended to with love, attention, and mercy by the Master Gardener. The world and all that is in it, is still at His beck and call. He is fully aware of those others who are coming along in the next seasons; those who will once again cause us to gasp, smile and make room in our garden for a bloom with the exact fragrance needed, in just the right season, for our souls to thrive. There is peace in knowing that after an anonymous winter of quiet cultivation by our Father, a lovely, bursting spring is waiting to captivate us with the joy of new growth and unexpected blooms. Psalm 126:5-6 (New Living Translation) says, “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”