Friday, October 31, 2008

Every day on the way to school we walk by a small retention pond. Wild ducks, white herons, and large turtles have made their home around this enclosed piece of prime, lakefront real estate. Few days ago, on the far side of the pond there stood another animal I haven’t seen around before. It was too far to discern what it is as it stared motionlessly at the murky water. But then it started to move. And as we watched it move, it became obvious it was a cat. We knew from the way it walked, from the way it moved that it was a cat. The way it walked revealed its identity. It is the way you and I walk that reveals our identity. The way we cook, the way we eat, the way we wait, the way we go, the way we vote, the way we win, the way we lose, the way, the way, the way...

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5:24

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light Ephesians 5:8

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. I Peter 2:21

Saturday, October 04, 2008

My Garden May Need Me, But I Need It Even More

Yesterday I got to talk with my dad and in the course of our conversation he asked,

How’s your garden?

My garden? How’s my garden?... How IS my garden?!!

Coming from anybody else the simple question would have unleashed an avalanche of guilty excuses, a flimsy attempt to justify my wobbling priorities. But from my dad… Not only do my dad and I share a passion for outdoor activities, gardening especially, but he also loves me and knows me, since I am his daughter. His question was a form of thermometer, a loving check if I am taking proper care of myself as I am busy caring for the whole world and a few universes beyond.

In the garden I am in touch (literally!) with the dust from which I was made, an amazing and humble reminder of who I am and who I am not. Its patient ways of endurance, the dynamics of its constants and ongoing changes, its setting in the larger context of the sky above and beautiful (albeit weed ridden!) earth below have a way of freeing me (at least temporarily) from my dogmatism, pettiness and steam-roller intensity, making me an altogether more pleasant person to be around. Being hard-working introvert like my dad, time alone to think and work, ponder and sweat is an absolute necessity, right up there with food and water and rest. Over the years, we have spent many hours working together or side by side, weeding and pruning, uprooting and planting, marveling at the amazing world around us and relishing each other’s company. Knowing all this, my dad’s question wasn’t surprising and yet, in another sense, it did catch me off guard since it’s been… what?... maybe months, that I actually worked in the garden, other than fulfilling my civic duty of every-other-week mowing of the front lawn (the back yard getting not nearly as much attention!). Have I not known my dad’s heart and his love for me (more than my garden!), I would have felt enormously guilty.

Aaah, my garden…
I replied with a chuckle. It looks great considering the amount of time I spend… or rather, not spend in it.

I don’t know if it was a quiet conviction of his caring question or a faint memory of why I actually enjoy being in the garden, getting dirty and sweaty, but this morning I decided that I need my garden as much as my garden needs me. So, I put on my grubby clothes and got out there to get an accurate assessment of the current condition. I started out with the parts that are obvious, and generally kept in decent order. Not bad, not bad… I thought with relief. Then I moved further to the right and further to the left and what I found was a mess! Over the past couple of months, many plants have died and many have clearly suffered from neglect, disease and extreme summer weather. Everything, I mean, everything was covered in encyclopedia-worthy assortment of weeds, some several feet tall. I thought of my sunny report to my dad and laughed at my optimistic ignorance. If this is great, than I am Michael Phelps!

I plunged into work and reflection and as I worked the ground I couldn’t escape the glaring connections between the condition of my garden and condition of my soul. With each dig of the shovel sunken into dried up dirt, I could sense my heart’s soil loosening and losing its crusty shell under the gentle hand of the master Gardener who is also my Dad. It dawned on me that this peculiar and personal interaction the two of us have established amidst the dirt and the weeds of my garden has taken much deeper root in the heart of this city girl than she realized! I do need my garden as much (or more!) as my garden needs me – not to prove anything, or accomplish some work that will be evaluated and approved by my Father (or my father). I need the garden because over the years it has become a sanctuary, a place to think, process, pray, cry and listen to the One who created me and speaks this strange language of my earth-bound soul.