Not a “Real” Gardener: When Sanctification Doesn’t Come Naturally

The other day I was weeding the jungle of a garden and it came to me, why I keep going with the garden even though it does not come naturally, even though my green thumbs have been painted on as an adult, even though I don’t feel like a real gardener.

It’s the life of virtue. 

It’s struggle. It’s sanctification. It’s progress against chaos and entropy.

Like someone once said, I won’t wake up and be a new person overnight. Even if I so desperately want to. It’s not how life works.

I can only keep dying to self and throwing my seeds in the dark earth. I can only keep ripping out the inevitable weeds. I can only keep turning the hose on to soak the thirsty ground. I can only keep learning, and trying, and shooing away cats, and forgetting to thin carrots, and leaving the hoe in the overnight rain.

I can only keep showing up, and bit by bit let the process begin to work a second nature in me.

I will always be a forest child. This is home territory. This is what feels natural to me. The forest is life as gift, God as transcendent Creator, made imminent to me in the wonders that unfold without the slightest pinky of my effort. I need the forest. God speaks and renews in the forest. God embraces in forest. There I find my rest, and the peace of simply being.

But He’s in the garden too, in a different way, in a way I need. He’s here with me, getting my fingers dirty in the toil of post-Eden. This is where I work out my salvation.

I know more now than I did when I started. I’ve been surprised by the grace of what crops up, even with my neglect. I’ve even made friends with a few earthworms. And every time I eat something, juicy and ripe, that grew in this square of reclaimed territory, I taste the joy and I remember, it’s worth it.

And that’s why I keep going.

It would be easier not to, many days. And oh, how I love the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance is the trampled ground of the scavenging crows, leading only to rocky wastelands.

Here the good soil is made, year by year, blister by blister, death by resurrection.

Here I meet the post-Easter Jesus, who looks an awful lot like a Gardener in the slanted morning light.

Here the fruit of my labour is also the fruit of His labour, and at the end of the day it’s all gift. The Spirit is here in the struggle. Life is here, no matter the colour of my thumbs. Maybe I’ll be a real gardener one day after all.




Still in the Story

When I’m tired, the words don’t flow like they usually do. Inspiration is lost by the sheer effort needed to form cohesive thought.

But all this helps:

Watching the river roll by
Reading poetry
Swinging in the hammock
Picking wildflowers
Giggling over a funny book
Crying over a sad song
Closing all the browser tabs
Opening the King James Version
Listening for the evening robin

It’s enough, for now.

Enough to stop reaching for things and let them come to me instead.
Enough to be content without creating content.
Enough to rest and receive from the larger sweep of the narrative.

Sometimes you’re the narrator, and sometimes you’re just listening in from the edge of the firelight.

It’s ok, I tell myself. You’re still in the story.




When you feel a little brittle

Some seasons you wake up and feel like this:

dead tree

The rest of the world is blooming and buzzing, and you are left standing apart, a little stark and a little naked. You feel brittle, and liable to snap.

You’re not quite sure what went wrong, and you didn’t really notice until everything else was green and you were not. Only there are hundreds of tiny holes in your core, and all the lifeblood must have drained out or been eaten up.

There was no disaster, no ax at the foot, no hurricane force. Just a slow and steady emptying. And it’s hard to say what’s wrong, only you’re just so tired.

And your roots are still planted by the spring, and the river runs by, but there’s no longer any shade for the little ones. The wind blows, but there are no leaves to rustle a tune.

You’re still standing, but you don’t know what to do next.

There’s this tiny sign of life, but is it enough?

new leaves


Psalm 38: The bottom of the well

Praying the Psalms

All my longings lie open before you, O LORD;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
(Psalm 38:9)

Here, at the bottom of the well, there is an emptiness. When the last trickle has drained into the cracks of the earth, there is a bareness. A stillness. If the heart is a wellspring, mine has lost its lifeblood. It is not broken, and yet its strength has failed. The light has gone from my eyes.

I hear nothing. I speak nothing. I know not what to pray.

And yet, I am not forsaken.

For here, all my longings lie open. There is nothing to hide behind. I have no defence, no strategy, not even supplication. Simply, openness.

The fear of the Lord is in this place.
And it is humility. It is trust. It is stillness.
It is longing.
It is knowing this: You see.

And so I wait.




Psalm 32: Lead with a Look

Praying the Psalms

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you. 
(Psalm 32:8-9)

Oh, that I would be wiser than a mule! Let me learn this for my children as well. That the authority of the eye is far more powerful than all my angry spurs or impatient tugging. I don’t want to leave a bitter taste in their mouths.

To lead with a look – this requires trust. This requires patience. This requires relationship. Shortcuts only shortchange us all.

This is leadership by invitation, by inspiration. This is watchful, forward looking leadership. This is not reacting, threatening, or cajoling. This is a calm, composed authority.


Oh Lord,

I have so much to learn.

Forgive me for going astray, for wandering out the range of your whispers. Forgive me for turning my head aside to distraction.

You call me to come near, to submit to your reign. And yet your yoke is easy and your burden is light, when I keep in step with you.

You call me to refocus in your field of vision.

You set my feet on your path once again.

You say, Stop fighting, stop fuming, stop figuring it out on your own.
     I know the way.
     I am the way.
     I will lead you, and your children.
     You will learn from me.

Tender shepherd, you promise to lead us. Not by pushing and shoving, not by threatening and bribing, not by brute force.

But by trust. By gentleness. By your voice.

By your eye.

A look is all it takes.

Lord, keep our eyes on you!


~ lg