Sunday, July 31, 2011

#16 My Garden of Discovery

     I enjoy gardening and devote a great deal of time, effort, sweat, and money to my flower and vegetable garden. Some of my endeavors are successful, and some are miserable failures. I have a particular deep pink rose I grow in pots beside my front porch. Every year I get a few big, luscious, fragrant blooms, and then the black spot attacks. I fight it, pruning off the ugly blighted leaves, give the poor things medicine, but then end up having to prune severely and hope to save the plant for another season of bloom. Somehow, though,  I don't give up on it and throw it away!
     The darn things require so much attention! They have to be planted in good soil, fed and watered at regular intervals, dead-headed, treated with anti-fungal spray, pruned, protected from the cold, and given plenty of sunlight. With only ten days of neglect, these potted roses turned brown and crispy while we were on vacation. But, with proper care, they are beginning to come back.
     How like those roses are we! No wonder Jesus used so many agricultural references as He was trying to teach His followers: the vine and the branches, the parable of the sower, separation of wheat from the chaff, the wheat among the tares. Our spiritual life is like tending roses. We need to feed upon the Word, drink of the Living Water, stay in the Son light to be able to bloom, emit His fragrance, and bear fruit, and even endure pruning at times. With a little neglect we grow cold apart from  the Son, we lose substance when we're not in His Word, and we shrivel up without the Living Water.
     I risk belaboring a metaphor, and I have another one yet to offer!!
     A few days ago, when I was out in my vegetable garden picking tomatoes, I had a revelation. Because of my visual disorder, I have blind spots. I have a really difficult time finding a particular cereal on the grocery shelves or even finding an earring on my bathroom counter!  I can set down my glasses on the kitchen table and not be able to find them again, even when they are right in front of me. Thus, I may meticulously go through the garden, picking all the ripe produce I see, then turn around, look again, and discover vegetables I missed!
     This particular day I had already picked a bowl of beautiful, ripe tomatoes.  I searched through the jungle of dense vines a second time and found more of the luscious Red Beefsteak variety that rarely grows in this hot, humid climate. I was looking over the tomato vines yet a third time and found even more lovely, plump, red tomatoes that I didn't see the other two times!! I actually laughed aloud because I realized God was teaching me something.
      Reading the Bible for me is like looking for tomatoes in my garden. I have read it through, and I regularly attend worship services and participate in Bible studies. We have a pastor who always offers new insights as he unfolds the scriptures for us. Yet, like I do in my garden, I still discover wonderful surprises in the Bible that thrill me and feed my soul.
     When I was going through some of the darkest periods of my life, I developed the habit of reading five chapters in Psalms a day and one chapter of the Proverbs as well. With 150 chapters of Psalms and 31 in Proverbs, I was able to read through each book every month. Strangely, as I read the same verses month after month, I would find new meanings and insights. God would be able to teach me something different from the same passages as long as I kept coming back to them. He taught me about myself and examined my heart. He showed be how to quit blaming someone else and begin examining myself. Although I read other portions of the Bible, those months of reading and rereading the Psalms and Proverbs were some of the best times of spiritual growth for me.
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
     I am amazed that a book centuries old is still "living". 
     Not only do I learn something new when I go back to the scripture, I receive fresh mercy and extravagant grace from my God Who is more faithful that any human ever can be. Like my tomato plants, God's Word is fruitful and bears a new harvest each day, awaiting my picking. I just have to hunt for it and regularly go back--even to the same places I have been before. I miss things the first time and even the second time I read a passage of scripture.  It's like "my secret garden"! I am fed and refreshed each time I visit.
    But, the garden cannot feed me continually or endure with me indefinitely like God does. My garden will eventually stop producing and shrivel up in this wilting Texas heat. Its season of productivity will end. The Bible, however, offers me something new and beautiful every time I walk among its pages. There I find a loving Lord Who pours out His compassion upon me and all who come before Him.

 " Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

     I find God's compassions by looking in the pages of His Word. I witness them as He blesses my life in ways I have never deserved. As He daily fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna from Heaven, He feeds me. He gives water to my thirsty soul. Under His tender care I become His garden!

"The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
      Thank you, Lord, for the red beefsteak tomatoes, for the bountiful garden with which You have blessed me, for the laughter among the vines, for the feast of Your Word, and for tending me "like a well-watered garden." Thank You even for this eye disorder and for showing me I have blind spots--both physically and spiritually! You are an amazing God!! I joyfully sing Your praise.


No comments: