“The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” Even though my middle name is Rose, I have an unusual capacity to cause flowers to die quickly after they have been entrusted to my care. So perhaps it’s understandable why I was quite reluctant to accept the enthusiastic invitation of my sweet husband Mitchell to plant our first family garden only several months after entering into the sacramental graces of our nuptial union. I’ve seen Texan deserts bloom; I’ve rejoiced with joyful, bluegrass song. But me, the unintentional flower killer, grow a garden?
“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” Perhaps you’re picturing a lush field in the golden glow of the summer sunset, with the newlyweds holding hands on the horizon, wearing overalls and straw hats, with an envelope of organic lettuce seeds in our left hand, and a pitchfork in our right. Well, in actuality, we were starting with an old, fenced-in, dog-kennel in the backyard of our apartment, a stones-throw distance from the humming Los Angeles 210 highway. It seemed to be the kind of soil Jesus spoke about in the parables that yielded zero-fold. Six by six feet of earth, rough-and-tumble-humble like John the Baptist. In the blasting summer heat, we began to sift through the soil, cleaning out remnants of shredded plastic tarps, filling buckets with stubborn stones, and harvesting jagged pieces of antique dishes & childhood marbles that made their way into the earth many moons ago. I began to think about the soil of my heart. How many shreds of pride, stubborn stones of unforgiveness, and lost treasures of God’s graces are buried inside of me?
“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” Giving witness to the love of our Bridegroom Jesus, my urban farmer hubby Mitchell is truly patient with me. His face dripping with sweat, he continues to co-create our first family garden by adding a bag of rich, dark, new soil to our lowly garden bed – just like God’s divine love, mercy, and grace mingles with our humanity to make us fertile and fruitful through Him, with Him, and in Him. “Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” We begin to see that there is actual potential for this abandoned dog kennel to become a real garden! We do our best to follow the directions on the back of the seed packets, and we label the wooden stakes adjoined to their neighboring rows of freshly planted seeds. Then day by day, we (almost always Mitchell!) water the garden slow and steady. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient.” All of a sudden, the plants begin to grow, and grow, and GROW!!!
I was like a stag LEAPING with excitement outside our little, miraculous garden! It wasn’t just surviving; it was THRIVING! Our mini-but-mighty, 10-stalk field of REAL PERFECT CORN grew higher than we could reach in the middle of an old, abandoned, dog kennel! We had so much basil and dill and cilantro that we had to beg our friends to help us eat the harvest! “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” In the most unlikely of places, God surprised us with the possibility of fruitfulness in our first family garden. With the most unlikely of gardeners, God’s wondrous creation sprang forth from the ground. “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.” As we wait for God to show up in the deserts of our hearts, God patiently waits for us to know that He’s already here. Lord, give us new eyes of mercy. Clear our deafened ears with your newborn cry. Help us to believe that nothing is impossible with you, and to trust that your love is not limited by our limitations.