Tending our spiritual gardens

by Laurie Green

Let’s face it: 2020 has been a very unusual year. I don’t know about you, but my best friend Shelia and I have joked that we feel like we are playing a real-life game of Jumanji, and just when you think things can’t get any stranger, they do. Between social distancing, mask wearing, school canceling and even stranger than normal weather events for Arkansas, it’s just been an odd season. 

One of the strangest for me was church being canceled. Don’t get me wrong, the church I attend was one of the luckier establishments as online services were a normal occurrence for our New Life Church campuses. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for a church who had never held an online service to adapt to the “new normals” we were experiencing. During this time I discovered a whole lot of us were horrible gardeners, and it had nothing to do with actual plants or having any kind of “green thumb.”

So, let me explain. I’ve never been good at keeping any sort of plant alive. In fact, my mother once sent me a huge fern as a gift when my first set of twins was born, and I still remember to this day the gentleman who delivered it said she specifically requested something that “thrived on neglect.” That is the type of gardener I am . . . bad. Nevertheless, 2020 had me learning to tend to my own garden.

With all the chaos of this pandemic, I found myself focusing quite a bit on the negative. During one of my complaining sessions with my son, Marcus, I mentioned that I missed having “in-person” church. He replied that it’s been a good time to see what kind of gardener most people are. I had no clue what he was talking about. Were we even having the same conversation? Was he even listening to me? Turns out he was about to teach me a very important lesson.

As he continued, he told me how when everything is going on and the routine is normal, it becomes easy to get lazy in our spiritual walk. Basically, we can show up for church and find that the majority of the work has already been done for us. The sermon is prepared, and we just have to sit and listen. Our notes are given to us as we walk inside the sanctuary, short of a few fill-in-the-blank spots we need to complete. In other words, our “spiritual garden” has already been tended to, and we don’t have to do extra work to make it look good from the outside. 

We’ve all seen those beautiful gardens or flower beds that just catch your attention and cause you to pause at their beauty, but what we sometimes forget is that someone has been doing a whole lot of work to make it look that way. They have pulled weeds, watered when necessary, protected from harsh elements and defended against pests. It is a 24/7 job behind the scenes to make it look so beautiful. You can tell pretty quick by looking at someone’s flower bed if they are lacking the work and skills needed to create something more than a weed patch. When COVID-19 shut down our in-person church meetings, we were all suddenly left to be the head gardener of our own spiritual gardens. 

Many were prepared for the task. They had already developed a habit of studying and applying God’s word to their everyday lives. They were feeding, watering and constantly defending any attacks that came to disrupt the growth. 

However, a lot of us, myself included, realized we weren’t really very good gardeners. I had gotten used to someone else doing all the work that had allowed me to reap the false benefits of looking like I had it all together. Now here I stood with weeds taking over, I hadn’t bothered with feeding or watering anything spiritual in a long time and those results were obvious. It was time to start getting my hands dirty pulling some weeds!

I absolutely love how my son, who by the way is one heck of a spiritual gardener, opened my eyes to even more of the goodness of God. It is such a true fact — this life can be so hard — but God is always so good. He will meet you right in the middle of your biggest mess, but He also loves you far too much to leave you there.

As 2020 draws to an end, my prayer for us all is that even in the chaos, we find moments to set our eyes on everything we have and be thankful. While I will most definitely leave the physical world of gardening to those who are professionals, you can bet I have learned how to tend to my own spiritual garden on a daily, often hourly, basis, and it’s looking pretty good if I dare say so myself.

Laurie Green
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