As the Nebraska winds blow balmy I stand at the edge of the garden and observe the damage. Stiff stalks of fountain grass lay quiet and crumpled, strewn across the lawn like fans. Oak leaves pile shin-deep against the fence, and the prickly, half-decayed butternut squash vines sprawl withered and crusty on the ground.
Two hours later, dirt caked beneath my fingernails, sweat dripping, I straighten my stiff back, lean on the rake and survey my progress. After all that, I’ve hardly made a dent.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to garden, I do. I love to dig my hands in cool dirt and press disintegrated leaves into tall paper bags. I love to hoe the soil smooth, prune and plant, water and watch. I love the clean slate of a freshly planted garden and the anticipation of rebirth. I love the scent of fresh basil rising from dark earth and gathering Roma tomatoes into the valley of my shirt.
But it never fails. Every year as I dive into the new season with gusto, I end up overwhelmed and exhausted, frustrated and discouraged. It’s a lot of work, this garden clean-up. I think I might fill a half-dozen of those skinny brown bags with dead leaves and sheared fountain grass, and I end up with two dozen instead. I assume it’ll take 20 minutes to wrestle the dead clematis from the fence, and an hour later I’m still up to my thighs in vines.
And then after the cleaning and hoeing and bagging and planting and watering, there’s the waiting – the interminable period when it seems like nothing will ever grow. I worry that the squirrels hijacked my seeds or that the robins ate them with their afternoon tea. I begin to suspect that my little boy helpers scattered the seeds willy-nilly instead of methodically covering them with just the right amount of dirt. I worry that nothing will grow at all, that I’ll be left with a barren wasteland of dandelions and creeping Charlie.
And that’s when I realize it. Leaning heavily on the rake, surveying what little progress I’ve made in more than two hours’ time, I realize that gardening is the perfect metaphor for faith.
There’s the mess you start with, the grime and grit, brokenness and chaos:
The tools to help you slog:
The seeds you plant:
The (im)patient waiting as the ground lays dormant:
And then, of course, there’s the desire to rush the process, to get more done, to figure it all out, to do it all at once. Forget cultivating, forget nurturing – I want results, and I want them now … in gardening and in faith.
I want this:
And what I get, at least initially, is this:
It’s a process, of course – a journey, a road, a path. It unfurls a little bit at a time, sometimes without my even noticing. I’ll be honest – I wish it would unfurl faster. I sure would like to get to the point where I’m confident in faith, doubt-free, questions put to bed, steady as a rock.
But it doesn’t work that way for me, at least it hasn’t yet. I’m growing in faith, yes… but it’s slow growing. Maybe I’m more like an oak than a weed. I guess that’s a good thing in the end; I hope it means my roots will go deep and my faith will live tall and strong.
Linking up with Jennifer for her Journeys series: