I plant seeds in the garden, and then spend the next several days anxiously walking up and down the rows, looking for signs of life.
I am watching for seedlings, but I’m not watching for seedlings, because—as Tolkien observed through his created people, the Elves—the eyes of mankind is always “thinking of something else” , and that “they look at no thing for itself; that if they study it, it is to discover something else […] because it reminds them of some other clearer thing”*; because of the truth of Romans 1:20. I am wandering the garden path, and my mind wanders with it.
I had the thought—two years ago with my hands in the dirt, pulling weeds—that there is much about life, the Gospel, about sin, about the mind of God that you can’t understand until you’ve tried to subdue the Earth. This is true of many roles and phases in life: being a child, a spouse, a parent. Gardener deserves a place amongst those; I have watched with fascination my generation’s embracing of this role, particularly in unlikely urban settings, and I imagine that this trend, along with the rather counterintuitive embracing of “natural birth” has implications more profound than any of us can guess.
But today I am watching for seedlings, and I’m wondering if God watches as eagerly for signs of His Word taking root in us.
And it occurs to me that the curse levied on Adam and Eve was more pain in childbirth, and the rebellion of the Earth they were ordered to cultivate.
And it occurs to me that, after Man’s rebellion, God suffers something very similar: bringing forth sons through intense pain, and the resistance of the very thing that should have been most receptive and cooperative.
As I watch for seedlings, I’m reminded of a God who empathizes. Like when you’re a child and can’t understand your parents’ decisions, then you become a parent and realize how gut-wrenching it can be to make those same choices, and suddenly you see your parents’ anguish and you understand a tiny part of the mind of God. I think of Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard, and where I might only have seen anger and judgment before, now maybe I understand a little of the suffering of the planter who finds that, despite every effort and accommodation, what He planted is not what has sprung up.
For gardening is an endeavor as emotional as it is anything else. Otherwise, why am I here, then, pacing up and down between the rows, pulling weeds and peering at the clay?
And He empathizes with me, maybe, in bearing on Himself the same curse I bear. Otherwise, why would He have come at all, to pace among us, to sacrifice himself?
The Church is the Bride of Christ, and while I don’t exactly understand what that means (except that it probably has something to do with knowing in part and knowing in full) I know that the one that takes a bride becomes her husband, and that word in English meant in the original sense “to till, to cultivate”, a cultivator, a caretaker, a gardener.