I read an essay recently that calls for all families in the United States to plant a vegetable garden. The author argues that such an endeavor is good for the environment and good for us. I have no doubt he is right, and I greatly appreciate my husband’s home-grown tomatoes. But if I had to grow my own food, I would almost certainly starve.
I am not a gardener. As much as I enjoy flowers and vegetables, I do not enjoy gardening. I am most grateful for the gracious help and advice of bona fide gardeners in my circle of friends. In a recent conversation with one of them, she commented that the hard part of gardening is getting a flower or vegetable bed set up; then it can be enjoyed. Yes, but…no garden will thrive without being tended. Ken’s tomatoes need to be watered, tied as they grow, and scrutinized for insects and disease. If I do not pinch off my spent pansy blooms, I will not get more.
The same is true for the garden of our spiritual lives. The Apostle John records Jesus using the analogy of gardening to teach His disciples about their spiritual lives in the fifteenth chapter of his Gospel. God desires His people to bear fruit for His kingdom. And the foundation and lifeblood of that fruit is Christ Himself. He is the vine. We, as the branches, are able to bear fruit only as we abide in Jesus.
Although Jesus does the “heavy lifting” in our fruit bearing, Scripture makes it clear that we need to tend our spiritual garden. Not only do we need to maintain an abiding relationship with Christ as the soil and water of our fruit-bearing faith, we need to fertilize that faith by keeping company with other believers (Heb. 10:25). Studying and meditating on God’s Word keeps our focus on our source of power just as plants turn their leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible (II Tim. 3:16). Vigilance in weeding sin and temptation from our lives removes the obstacles that can derail our life of faith (Heb. 12:1).
So what is a reluctant gardener to do? I think we need to acknowledge an important truth. While we live in a culture in which someone else grows most of our food, only we can bear the spiritual fruit that God has created us to bear. That can, in our lazier or more selfish moments, seem like a burden. I would comment, though, that it is precisely the bearing of fruit for God’s kingdom that gives us eternal significance. We matter, to God and to others. We don’t have to bear fruit; we get to bear fruit. And it gets better. We don’t have to settle for boring. As we bear fruit together as His body, we get to produce a “fruit salad” that is as unique as we are. That is Gardening for which I will gladly and gratefully sign up.