This year my garden is pathetic. As in, it’s late June and I’ve barely gotten it started. Yes, I can blame it on being too busy homeschooling while caring for a toddler and an infant. Or maybe it’s a time-management issue. Regardless of the reason I’m getting such a late start, every year my mind is filled with images of my ideal garden: lush greenery filling every neat inch of my garden, producing baskets full of colorful produce to fill our table all summer long.
Fruitful. This is always my goal, always my dream. And not only for my garden.
The following is adapted from a devotional I shared years ago at a ladies’ salad supper. Whether you have a green thumb or not, may you be encouraged to live with purpose.
Fruitful: Reflections From the Garden
Some of you may know that I love to garden. I grew up with gardens, but never knew how much I loved the soil until I was an adult living overseas and had no space to garden. So this spring Matt and I dug up a portion of our backyard for a garden.
I spent countless hours out in the garden, digging up the sod, removing grass, weeds, and roots to prepare the soil for planting; going out and buying the seeds and plants we wanted; researching when to plant each one and which plants should or should not grow next to each other; sketching out a map of the garden to make sure I had room for everything I wanted; carefully measuring and marking to give each plant optimum growing room while squeezing as much as possible into the limited space; fertilizing and planting.
All summer I continued to pour time and attention into the garden, pulling weeds, picking cabbage worms off every broccoli leaf, watering plants, waiting…watching. Every day I ran out back to check on the progress of my garden—sometimes more than once a day—to see if another pea had popped above the surface of the ground or how many inches the squash had grown.
This delighted my soul.
Since I spent so much time in the garden, and since I found it such a place of rest for my soul, I ended up doing a lot of thinking and praying there.
Each day as I poured love and effort into the garden, I found myself begging God to let it be fruitful, to bear fruit to reward me for all my labors. I so wanted to experience the joy of bringing in loads of colorful beans, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, and whatever else was growing.
Then I realized that it might be selfish to only ask for my garden to be fruitful. So I started accompanying that prayer with the plea that our lives also be fruitful, bearing much good fruit for the King, the Gardener of our souls.
As I took such childlike delight in my garden—planting, nurturing, watching each leaf unfurl—I had to think that perhaps this is the kind of delight the Father takes in watching each of us grow and develop. As He nurtures us, perhaps He, too, squeals with pleasure over each new step of faith we take, each new understanding we gain, each act of service we do for others.
Well, things were growing well. Matt and I finally put up a fence to keep the deer and rabbits out. Everything was growing fast; the garden was becoming lusher and greener each week. The broccoli did surprisingly well. We got a few peas and harvested the onions. The beans and corn did reasonably well, too, and the eggplant produced more than we could keep up with!
But then the tomato leaves starting curling up with little brown spots. Before long, early blight was taking over some plants and spreading to others. Even though I battled this insidious disease with careful pruning, removing the diseased leaves, spraying, and disinfecting before touching the next plant, still the plants died…slowly…one by one.
Then my zucchini stopped producing flowers or fruit; the leaves grew stunted and deformed. I discovered that squash vine borers—big, fat, ugly white worms—had bored into the stems and roots of the vine, eating it from the inside out so the plant had no energy left to produce zucchini. These died, too.
Then the peppers. Last year our pepper plants right outside my kitchen grew tall and sturdy, waist high, and produced loads of peppers. But this year they grew only a foot and stopped, stunted by some disease. They produced only one, measly, little dime-sized pepper. They just took up garden space, doing nothing.
In the midst of my disappointment, I realized that God, too, pours so much love and attention into us: nurturing us, protecting us, providing what we need, guiding us, and teaching us. But not all of us live long, healthy, productive spiritual lives. How grieved God must be when we succumb to the influences of sin in our lives, or give in to despair. When we grow distracted by the busyness and good things in our lives, or maybe simply exist without purpose.
Before gardening this year, I hadn’t given much thought to the deep disappointment God must feel when we don’t bear fruit. Now, I’m not a perfect gardener, and I hadn’t had time to build up the soil enough to prevent disease. But God is the perfect Gardener. In 2 Peter 1:3 it says, “His divine power has given us everything”—everything!—“we need for life and godliness.”
How can I bear to disappoint a God who has given me everything I need?
Whether we are gardeners or not, all of us are called to bear fruit. May we consider all that God has poured into us, and work with him, not against him, to allow him to cultivate good fruit in our lives that will bring pleasure and glory to the Father.
In closing, I leave you with three Scriptures. Consider these words of Jesus from the Gospel of John:
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.John 15:8, NASB
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.John 15:16a, NIV
Finally, with those words in mind, consider the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers. May this become our prayer, as well:
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the LordColossians 1:10-12, NIV
and may please him in every way,
bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience,
and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you
to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like another bit of garden-inspired spiritual reflections: Beauty in Resilience: Lessons from the Tulip.