Someone commented yesterday on how many of my reflections revolve around the garden and I have been thinking about why this is so ever since. I did not grow up as a garden lover – in fact my mother is constantly amazed at how keen I have become on gardening. I think that it was really only when I moved to Seattle that I started to become fascinated with the view outside and it is only in the last few years that this has become one of my driving passions. So how did this happen?
When Tom and I were married he had a few tomato plants growing in the side garden and a few scraggly plants in the front. For the first couple of years I was constantly frustrated because I really wanted to replicate the garden I would have grown in Sydney Australia and of course the bouganvillia, hibiscus and other tropical plants I tried just did not survive. So I started reading seed catalogues and that was my undoing. the exotic photos of flowers and vegetables where a temptation I could not ignore. And as the plants started to grow I discovered that eating fresh picked tomatoes is a truly spiritual experience.
Genesis tells us that God walked in the Garden of Eden and I always feel that God still walks in the garden with me today. No don’t worry that I am about to become an animist, it is just that most of the best spiritual lessons I learn these days come from the garden rather than from books – and from someone that loves reading as much as I do that is quite a confession.
The Celts believed that nature was translucent and that the glory of God shone through. The ancient monks believed that in creating gardens they were recreating something of the garden of Eden. In here book Looking For God, Nancy Ortberg says nature holds more beauty than our eyes can bear which beautifully sums up why I have developed such a love affair with the garden. We can try to recreate an experience of heaven in our churches with bells and smells and rich ornamentation, but that doesn’t come close to the wonder of God experienced in the fragrance of flowers, the melody of birdsong and the beauty of plants and animals.
I think that one of the reasons people are moving away from Christianity at time warp speed is because we have so divorced our faith from the natural world. We confine our worship to a little stuffy church building and restrict our devotion to reading words about God without connecting to the glory of God all around us. I read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but I experience it every time I plant a seed and watch it burst into life. I read about the faithfulness of God to Israel but I experience it every time I watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds I have planted. I read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves but I experience a miracle every time I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.
I am planning to run a workshop this spring on the spirituality of gardening which has me thinking more than ever about the lessons to be learned. What do you think? How does your experience of nature connect you more deeply to God?