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lessons from the garden, chapter 3

July 2, 2008

We’ll come back to the obedience sermon another day. I’m working that out in myself right now. In the meantime, I was in the garden yesterday.

“Know the Secrets”

If you didn’t know anything about gardening, you could probably still do a decent job. You know from pictures and other gardens that you’ve seen that you need to remove the grass. You know that you should remove the weeds. You know that if it doesn’t rain for a couple days, you need to water it, and there are directions on the back of the seed packets for how deep and far apart to plant. Your garden would grow, and you’d reap a good harvest.

It’s easier, though, and your harvest is better if you know the secrets. Secrets are learned by doing the same thing for two or three years and figuring out how to do it better, and secrets are learned by gardening with your mother for years.

The same is true of discipleship. You can read your Bible by yourself and pray by yourself, and you’ll do just fine. It’s easier, though, and your harvest is better if you know the secrets.

Secret #1: Carrots take longer.
There is a patch of dirt in the middle of my garden where two rows of carrot seed has been planted (denoted left by the sticks in the foreground, behind which, nothing seems to be happening). Those are my carrots. Carrots take longer to show up top-side because they’re roots; they grow down much further than other plants’ roots.

I know that because my mom always grew carrots. If I didn’t know that, though, I’d be sorely disappointed at the idea of planting two rows of carrots and not getting a single one to grow. I might dig up those rows and try to re-seed it. I might try to plant something else entirely. I might just stop watering and weeding that section. But I’m not doing any of that, because I know how carrots grow.

I also know that you have to just open your mouth and speak in tongues before it makes any sort of sense. I know that pride often starts as spiritual pride or false humility. I know that a miracle of healing happens instantly, but sometimes a supernatural answer-to-prayer healing takes a couple days. If I didn’t know these things, I might ruin something.

Secret #2: It’s best to water in the evening.
I thought this was something everyone knows, but I’m constantly driving through neighborhoods on the weekends and watching people water their lawns in the middle of the afternoon.

Watering any sort of plant – especially plants that you want to produce fruit – during a hot, sunny, summer day is a bad idea. As soon as you stop, the water will evaporate really quickly. First of all, all your water was wasted, and secondly, you can scorch your plants and leave them drier and worse off than they were before. Water your garden in the evening, as the sun sets and the air begins to cool, so they can drink deep.

Reading your bible, praying, giving, and all the rest, out of a religious attitude are like watering in full sun. You go through the motions because you know you should. You know that a garden needs water. As a Christian, you know you’re supposed to read your bible everyday. If the garden is not ready to receive water, it often ends up worse than it began. If your heart and spirit are not ready to receive God’s word or blessing, you become religious.

Secret #3: Puddles are only on the surface.
I used to watch my mom water the garden and warn her to not drown the poor plants. I would stand by as puddles began to form in our footprints left between rows of peas and know for sure that she was killing all of our hard work.

Finally, after watering one evening (because we watered in the evening), my mom guided me to the edge of the garden and told me to pull back a small layer of dirt with my finger. I did, and was shocked to find out that, despite the puddles, the soil only an inch down was completely dry!

Especially when the garden is new, and the plants are first growing, water away. If small puddles start to form, watch them for a minute, and if they soak into the dirt pretty quickly, you’re okay. Those little veggies (except the carrots you can’t see yet) haven’t set very deep roots yet. When they get older and their roots are deeper, you don’t need to water as much, but for now they need rich soil.

The seed that is the kingdom of God in my heart needs rich soil, especially the new ones. Things that have been planted for a while – like tithing – don’t need a lot of teaching or encouragement because they’ve got roots and they’re producing fruit.

New seed (or seed that was planted years ago but that has never been properly watered so it’s never developed much root) need more help. The “slave of all” seed is one that, for me personally, doesn’t have a lot of root yet, so I need to water it more and more – even when on the surface it seems like puddles are forming.

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