Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Own Gardens

A little more than a month ago, I picked up a book written in 1932, called "Down the Garden Path" by Beverley Nichols. As the title suggests, it is a gardening book. Yet I found it to be somewhat more, most likely due to what Heavenly Father felt I needed to know at the time rather than what the author was trying to teach. In his descriptions of various plants and soils and growing seasons I began to draw gospel parallels. I am one of those people who can kill cacti. Not on purpose of course. And one of them actually survived for about five years. But I digress.

I learned, as the author did, that the type of soil has as much to do with how the plant thrives as the season in which it is planted or how much sun and water it receives. Sounds simple enough, but it is not something I thought of as I would buy seeds or starter plants, plastic pots to place upon my apartment porch, and whatever bag of soil was currently on sale. What plants flowered or bore fruit, neighborhood squirrels mauled and there didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason which plants made it to the ready-to-be-mauled stage, until I picked up this book. Faithful watering and weeding (how do weeds get inside pots potted with weed-free soil, anyway), loving conversation to said plants, threats to the squirrels that they might end up in a stew all aside, neither of my two thumbs had much green in their genes. Ah, but the wrong soil for that particular plant, or too much / too little sun (fooled, I was, by the fact that the soil was still moist, so my water/sun ratio must be correct) -- this I could understand. I haven't had a porch garden in a few years, but these are things to keep in mind with future attempts.

I hadn't picked up the book to learn anything about gardening. I had read one of the author's later books a few years ago and enjoyed his humorous descriptions of his misadventures in gardening and home restoration and observations about village life. Learning a little bit about what makes a garden grow was not unexpected, for it was a book on gardening. But learning a little bit about my life was the real surprise, and pleasant at that.

I began to think about the similarities between how plants grow in different environments and how we grow in different environments -- physical, spiritual, mental, emotional environments. How some seeds fall by the wayside and are devoured, some fall into stony places where they cannot not get root, some are choked by thorns, and some fall to good ground and bring forth fruit a hundredfold. Both that parable in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, as well as the allegory of the olive tree in the fifth chapter of Jacob took on new meanings for me; they were no longer simply about the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but also about how that Gospel takes root in our own hearts.

I thought about that last cactus I had, which thrived for quite awhile, and then became root bound and how I procrastinated replanting it until it was too late (and it certainly did not help that the soil I replanted it in was not the proper soil). I thought about how some of those plants died simply because I had neglected them, getting distracted by other things so I did not water or otherwise nourish the plants. And perhaps I could have been more cognizant of the fondness the squirrels had for tomatoes, and somehow kept them away.

I thought perhaps I too often stop reading the parable of the seeds after the wayside/stony ground/thorns, and forget about the seeds which fell into good ground. And even in good ground, neglect can negate all the gardener's efforts. Jacob's allegory of the olive trees doesn't end with the first crop of bad fruit. The Lord and Servant of the vineyard worked together grafting and regrafting and nourishing the vineyard until it had every opportunity to thrive and bring forth good fruit. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior are just as committed in our lives. We mess up. We neglect ourselves and those under our care; we lose opportunities to bring forth good fruit and our neglect ofttimes hurts others as well. And then we listen to the squirrels -- I mean, the Adversary, and think we simply cannot ever see a beautiful garden in our lives, so we stop planting and nourishing, sometimes in our own lives as well as in the lives of others.

While I was thus ruminating upon gardening as it related to life, a friend whom I had not shared these thoughts told me she had recently received the following counsel at the temple: "Bloom where you are planted.". She wasn't certain what to make of that I couldn't tell her. But I thought I knew what it meant to me in my own life: "Do something with what I have already given you, and I will take care of the rest; I will guide you as you do so and bring forth the good fruit you desire in your life." That is what those words meant to me, at this stage in my life. However, as sound as that counsel is, it's not the counsel I received. While my friend had received counsel about blooming, I had been prompted to think about thriving. Perhaps they mean the same thing in the context of how He wishes to guide our lives, and spoke to us individually in our own vernacular.

I wondered if that is what I needed to do: to bloom where I am planted. But I also wondered if, like in Jacob's allegory, I need to be transplanted to another part of the vineyard. I cannot say. Shortly after wondering those things, I wandered away into other thoughts for a month and have just recently returned to the garden.

I believe Heavenly Father can help us bloom wherever we plant ourselves -- but we shouldn't forget His status as a Master Gardener. He knows what soils and climate can best nourish us, how much sun and rain we need. He knows which thorns and stones to surround us with to keep us humble and turning our hearts to Him.. He knows how much inclement weather we can handle and how much we need to strengthen and deepen our roots.

The question is, do we trust the Gardener?

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