Gardening Your Heart

One day I hope to garden.

I know the basics of it – you put seeds in the ground at certain times of the year, and then voila! Two weeks later, you have to avoid hitting it with the lawn mower. But I’ve never really engrossed myself with the process. There are reasons for that. Most of them dealing with mosquitoes.

Today, I had to garden a little bit. My children are old enough they like to go outside and play in the yard, and being the homebody I am, appreciating the finer points of having a Vitamin D deficiency, I don’t really like to go out with them. The yard is fenced before you worry about calling CPS.

But there’s a tree stump in the one corner of my yard I’d noticed growing these huge mushroom blooms. And being the paranoid person I am, I decided to pull them up. All six huge heads of them. It was like grabbing a bouquet of ears. I could have housed fungi fanatics for a week with what I uprooted. Not pleasant, but I will do what it takes and probably more, to the point of obsession, to protect my kids. (I came from a helicopter parent, and I will probably be one, too.)

Of course, the mushrooms were not the poisonous kind, I later learned, but I learned a lot in pulling them up.

I learned how hard it is not to just pull up what you’re trying to pull up when you weed. You’re going to end up pulling up a lot more. I sure did. That rolled over and I did a huge amount of weeding, and not just mushrooms. Thorns and roots and twisted tangles of vine plants all had their moments with me today, and I emerged the victor.

It’s also going to take a lot more time than you thought it would. I took about two hours on what I’d estimated on a twenty minute job.

Those are the practical things that go with much of life.

The more intriguing things I learned had to do with life and death, about how you can think something is alive when it grows but then you see it’s fungi. Stuff is feeding off the death stuff. I think about this sometimes with my heart. Especially when people say stuff like I’m ignorant, I’m deluded, my faith is weird, and I say things no one else says. I like to think my heart is in the right place, but I’m not always checking my pride or my ego, or my anger, or my sadistic streak that lingers beneath a strong wave of self-control, but still looks for any crack through which to come rising up.

The Bible talks about how the heart is deceitful above all else, and asks who can really know its purposes. This is where I’m struggling a bit in my faith, more on a practical level than an internal one.

I had to explain to someone this week (one of my Internet fights) about blood, and why God calls for blood with sacrifice. There are many speculations on some ends of this, but it is essentially a life for a life. A human sins, and the purity of another life is sacrificed to cover the damage. The Hebrew tradition began this with lambs, and the Christian tradition sees this as completed through the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice.

I know my heart is covered by the blood of Jesus. But my body still carries the sin nature inside of it, and that means I am tempted to be proud at the wrong times, I fall short of the standard placed before me, and to make matters worse, sometimes it is hard to feel bad about it. But I know, not feel, Jesus has me covered.

But when I act, and I am representing him, I run into more trouble. And this is where I think ‘gardening’ your heart can help.

With gardening, there are some basic guidelines to follow when it comes to acting, just as there are with people. Here’s a list of what gardening can teach you about keeping your heart in a God-honoring place.

1. Know Thy Weeds

I know I have a problem with certain things. Pride is a big one. Politics can be another (I felt old when I started to enjoy the political debates on TV. They really should televise Congress in the same manner; I think it would be hilarious.) You should be aware when you know you’re in an area where you will be tempted to place your own comfort or self over others.

This is also a cry for intelligence, though. So many Christians argue about stupid things, I want to throttle them myself (See?) Be informed of your facts, the context, and the circumstances. If there is a need for clarification, don’t be lazy and assume because people say something you like means that is the truth.

So, be able to distinguish the good, the bad, and the starting perspective of each story.

2. Don’t be Lazy; Be Disciplined

If I start weeding on a regular basis, I probably won’t have a lot to do all at once. Discipline is hard, so make sure you know tending to your heart (or your garden) is something you love, something that brings you joy, and something that can bring joy to others.

3. Don’t be Overly Disciplined (or Obsessive) You miss the Beauty and Only See Work

That one pretty much explains itself. People can get used to seeing only the good, or only the bad. We need to have one foot on the ground and one eye on the clouds. Balance is important, especially when it comes to honesty, assessment, and truth.

4. Always Look for Signs of Silent, Hidden, or Dangerous Growth

I remember the first time I read through Mere Christianity, and how C. S. Lewis talked about the devil being content to let you uproot a vice, provided you replaced it with another, worse one. I didn’t have to look too hard for the mushroom blossoms in my yard. I don’t have to look too far for the pride in my heart, either. But I definitely need to make sure both are pulled up.

5. Remember Your Role Accurately 

In all things, remember that all the work you do or don’t do will not make the plants grow or die. God takes care of certain things we can’t do either. We might be able to manipulate the surroundings, but as Kung Fu Panda reminds us, a peach tree seed will still only give us a peach tree when done. And God is the one who provides the life inside the seed to start with.

I’ll keep at it and see if I can find any other good gardening tips for your heart. Some things, I’ve found, are only learned throughout time.

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