We have attempted a garden for many years and we usually call it a “learning experience” because frankly, we have had mixed results. But, there is something about trying again and hoping for that bountiful harvest of overflowing baskets full of beautiful, shiny produce. This year, we were highly motivated because we thought we may have to eat exclusively from our garden not knowing what would be happening in the world next. On March 21st, our town was prepping for shelter in place, and we were tilling our garden.
We had a defined goal: to produce fruit. And because we had a heightened sense of urgency to achieve our goal and time to tend to the garden, we have seen a bountiful harvest! In this time of tending and caring for our plants, I have been reminded of God’s love in a special way. I have learned lessons from my garden. I have learned lessons about The Master Gardener.
1. God celebrates the first fruits.
As believers, we are the first fruits. The desire of God is that all would believe His promise of eternal salvation through Christ. And, He and the angels rejoice. We are set apart and offered to Him. God yearns to have a bountiful harvest of souls to celebrate. Just as our primary goal in gardening was to see a harvest, God desires for the world He loves to believe His promise so that He can gather us up with overflowing arms of bounty.
2. Firstfruits give us a taste of what is to come.
May 30th was Pentecost, which is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This celebration also lines up with the Jewish Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah and the wheat harvest. This occurs seven weeks (a week of weeks) and one day after Passover, or 50 days. Pentecost and the Feast of Weeks happen 50 days after Easter. The fact that this also aligns with the time when many gardens are producing their first fruits is no accident. We celebrate the gifts that God has given and look forward to all that is to come. My heart was full of joy when we plucked the first fruits from our garden. I thanked God for what He had provided and had hope for more.
3. God celebrates when we bear fruit.
God produces fruit of good works in us. In the Word of God, just as fruit is used as an illustration of believers set apart and celebrated, fruit is also used as a visual representation for the love that we show others, the Fruit of the Spirit, the work that He has prepared for us as disciples. We are set apart to love. John said this.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.John 15:16-17
He goes on to talk about how we bear that fruit through abiding in Him. As the Master Gardener, He is not standing above us demanding us to bear fruit. He is tending our souls, longing for us to submit to His will and abide in Him, and empowering us by His Spirit and wisdom to bear fruit. (Colossians 1)
4. God uses the gross to prepare the soil.
Our tradition is to plant the garden near the weekend of my husband’s birthday, March 20th. So, on that day, my daughter and I began turning the soil one row at a time. Through the winter, we throw leaves, compost, and chicken manure into the garden area to keep the soil rich and ready. As we turned the soil, we saw giant earthworms doing their magic. This soil was beautiful. As I worked the shovel on each turn, I was struck by how God often uses the undesirables in our lives to make us ready for growth. Kitchen scraps, poo, and earthworms had made this soil full of nutrients that would nourish each plant for the goal of production.
5. The curse reminds us of our need for Jesus.
God was merciful after the fall. The working of the land, the weeds, the pestilence, the struggles in relationships, these all remind us of the future glory for which we long. These troubles, trials, and tribulations reveal our need for a Savior. Living life on our own is an option, but eternal life cannot be achieved on our own. The difficult contrast guides our souls to seek this salvation as well as the strength He gives each day.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.John 14:6
6. God prunes with love and gentleness.
I learned about determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. Determinate plants, which are smaller and more bush-like, need their small sucker shoots trimmed but indeterminate need more shaping so as to not take over the garden because they keep growing, well, indeterminately. Both pruning techniques affect fruit production. God prunes us in personal ways. He looks at each of us just as I analyzed each tomato plant to decide which branches to trim, knowing our uniqueness, individuality, and areas for growth.
7. God works all things together for good.
His designs are perfect. At one end of the garden, we have zucchini and yellow squash. As the blossoms began to form, we noticed, as we have in previous years that our squash was growing and then wilting on the stem. After some reading and realizing it wasn’t calcium deficiency as we had accepted before, we realized the blossoms were not being pollinated. Bees! We needed bees. God designed this perfect symbiotic relationship with insects and plants to produce fruit! But, they like colorful flowers and are drawn to gardens where color abounds. Marigolds to the rescue! But in the meantime, we needed to hand pollinate. Previously, we had heard about this idea of hand pollinating, but who had time for that? This year, with an attitude of attention and care, each morning, Jeff and I took turns finding the male flowers and then transferring pollen to the female flowers. For both of us, this was such a rewarding experience. And then when we would see the female flourish and grow, we celebrated.
God clothes the lilies of the field and the sparrows. And He watches over me.Matthew 6:25-34
8. God is patient with us as we grow.
Nothing happens quickly in the garden. But, He is watchful, waiting, caring, and tending to us all the time.
9. God does not give up on us.
He continues to tend the garden even when the weather gets hot and dry, when rain floods the garden, when the soil is drained of nutrients, when rats and birds threaten our fruit. He continues the work that He started. As earthly gardeners, our tendency is to give up and say, “oh, we got some good fruit and we can let it go,” but God is constantly at work and desires each of us to continue to follow Him and produce fruit to the end. He is zealous for us.
He who began a good work in me is faithful to complete it.Philippians 1:6
10. God uses our fruit to bring others to saving faith.
A beautiful representation of the life of discipleship. We as firstfruits have the opportunity to bear fruit to draw others to the Love of Christ. We have the privilege of participating in a greater harvest.
As I had time to contemplate my garden, I had time to contemplate God as a Master Gardener. Imagining His gentle tending to my growth to bear fruit, I am motivated to stay close to the vine allowing this work. I know the care that I, as a human, took to see a bountiful harvest, and this care is minuscule in comparison to the interest God has in each of us.