Tending Our Spiritual Gardens

May 3rd, 2013

Spring is in the air! Finally, after what felt like an extended winter in much of the country, temperatures are warming up, ground is thawing, and trees are budding. This means that it is time to get out your gardening gloves. Tending a garden requires a lot of planning and even more follow-though. But the rewards you will reap are almost always worth it.

Consider three of the main types of gardens: the vegetable garden, the fl ower garden, and the rock garden. Each of these gardens represents a different way to use the ground for good. Vegetable gardens require strong soil, and their purpose is to produce food for physical nourishment. Flower gardens use a more delicate soil, and the plants in a flower garden usually require more tending than the sturdier vegetable plants. The flowers and other plants in these gardens work together to create a place of beauty as well as to enhance the existing beauty of the world around them. Rock gardens don’t need a particular type of soil. They are a planned space meant to de-clutter the landscape and to offer walking paths and places to rest. Their purpose is to invoke relaxation and clarity of mind.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Gardening means different things to different people. For some, it’s a way of life. Growing and harvesting not only puts food on the table but also provides income and participation in the global economy. For others, gardening is a hobby.

These gardeners may believe strongly in local, organic produce. Or maybe they find no greater joy than sitting outside among blooming plants after a long day inside a busy office. Still others prefer the rock garden, a quiet place to rest and reflect, usually in the midst of a busy city. These different approaches to gardens and gardening mirror the different approaches that Christians take to tending their spirits and growing in relationship with God. Some feel closest to God when working hard, getting their hands dirty in service to God and others. Other Christians connect with God through the beauty of the natural world God created or the beauty they see in others. And still others grow in their relationship with God through quiet time spent in prayer and solitude.

Tending the Soul

We encounter examples of planting, gardening, and tending the earth throughout Scripture. Growing and harvesting crops was a fact of life in the agrarian cultures during Bible times. Jesus used gardening and farming as points of reference in his parables to explain the kingdom of God. But even today we can learn from these agricultural metaphors. Our spirits still depend on a deeprooted faith, the nurturing power of love, and the ability to produce fruit. In John 15:5 Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.”

Youth need to understand the importance of tending their soul and nurturing their relationship with God. It’s also important for them to realize that there is no one correct way to do this. A young person who isn’t capable of spending an hour in silent prayer may feel extremely close to God while getting his or her hands dirty in service to others. And while one young person might fi nd God in the midst of loud praise music, another might experience God through a peaceful walk in the park. Much as there are different types of gardens, spiritual growth and nurture is different for different Christians—but all need to be tended.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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