The garden is the initial core location of God’s presence on earth; this is where God’s presence is first manifest, both in giving instructions to humanity (2:15-17) and in declaring judgement (3:8-19). The garden is thus the link between earth and heaven, at least at the beginning of human history. The implication is that as the human race faithfully tended this garden or cultivated the earth, the garden would spread, until the entire earthly realm was transformed into a fit habitation for humanity. But it would thereby also become a fit habitation for God. Richard Middleton A New Heaven and A New Earth
This last weekend I was in British Columbia at A Rocha, facilitating a seminar on creating hospitality in the garden. I asked participants: How do we create a fit habitation for God? What do we need to do to invite God back into this garden which is our planet earth? Then I asked: How do we create a fit habitation for humanity? In other words how do we create glimpses of a world of shalom in which God once more feels comfortable to walk with humankind and enjoy the beauty and delight of creation.
Part of what I talked about is how our own gardens or homes can become a microcosm in which we create a fitting place for both humanity and God to dwell. Often our actions and advocacy for God’s shalom world are only outside the homes. Bringing these principles into our homes is something we are more hesitant to do. But the challenge of Jesus does not separate private and public spaces. We invite God into all parts of our lives and by inference into all spaces we inhabit.
Creating A Fit Place For God to Dwell.
There are many types of places that invite God’s presence into our homes and gardens. Places for reflection, for prayer, for rest, for celebration and hospitality. What kind of place would you like to create in which to invite the presence of God? Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Think of your home and/or garden. Where do you think God would feel welcomed and comfortable? Where would God feel uncomfortable.? Why
Now imagine yourself creating a place that you think God would feel both welcomed to and comfortable in. Where would it be? What would it look like? What structures would it incorporate? What senses would it stir? What would its purpose be?
A couple of years ago I wrote a series of posts on creating sacred space in the garden. Those were the foundations out of which I created new areas for meditation and hospitality. I also added a few more plants to stir my senses of touch and taste as well as a water feature with the delightful sound of water over rocks. All of these invite the presence of God into our gardens and our homes and give us a glimpse of the shalom world that God plans to reestablish.
Creating a Fit Place for Humanity to Dwell.
When I think of a fit place for humanity to dwell I think not just of beauty but of abundance and generosity, not just of justice but of fellowship and mutual care. I think of a place without pollution where all have housing, jobs and medical care. The question is how can we create such spaces in our gardens and our homes? Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed and imagine ways that you can invite others into your garden? Are there new possibilities for hospitality? Sharing of garden produce? Offering housing to the unhoused? In what ways is God inviting you to create a fitting place for humanity to dwell in your own home and garden?
My colleague Andy Wade has helped me with this through his inspiring posts on cultivating hospitality in the front yard and What If: a Garden Meditation which you might like to read as you consider this question. Some of his ideas which capture my imagination are still in the future but it is wonderful to have ongoing inspiration like this to work with.
Over the last couple of years as a result of grappling with these questions I have invited others into my garden in a variety of ways. First I have invited others to come and garden with me and take home some of the produce. And in the last couple of years we have held apple processing days when we sat out in the backyard, cut and peeled apples and then sent everyone how with bags of apples for pies, sauce and more. It is a fun time of fellowship and an opportunity to catch up with friends we have not seen for a while. We also have lots of BBQs and other gatherings at our house and have invited the neighbourhood kids to come and play on the swings in the backyard.
The creation of such a place demands our acceptance of the responsibility God has given us to steward creation, but it is far more than that. It also implies an open handed, open hearted generosity that is willing to take risks.
What do you do to invite God into your garden and your home?