Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Sunday lesson from the garden

With the early spring we're having here, I've already turned my winter compost pile and started cleaning up some of last fall's leftover detritus. And I've been moodling about the spiritual lessons my garden gives me...

I've never considered myself to be a particularly great gardener. For one thing, I'm kinda lazy. For another, I'm not terribly persistent. As a result, weeds and grass find their way in among the plants that I'm trying to cultivate, and I often find myself overwhelmed by dandelions or chickweed, especially when I think of the perfection of some peoples' gardens, or of my favourite Butchart Gardens near Victoria, BC.

On Thursday morning, I looked at my front perennial garden and was very tempted to clear away all the organic matter from last fall, leaving only black soil and green shoots. After all, it would look a lot tidier, more Butchart-ish, more like someone actually cared about the yard.

But then, for some unknown reason, Jesus' words came into my head -- "Be perfect as your heavenly father/mother is perfect."

Ha! Like my yard could ever be perfect; like I could ever be perfect. Perfection in this world is a rare thing. Even the things we humans call perfect often aren't, or are only fleetingly so. The perfect rose withers after a few days. The perfect models in magazines are often airbrushed and photoshopped. The perfect piece of fruit has a hidden bruise or a rotten core. The perfect actor might have an over-inflated ego...

As I wondered about how God sees the perfection Jesus was talking about, I started cutting down the dead stalks of my taller plants in my messy yard. And I came upon a lupin growing right in the middle of a patch of bee balm. How did that get there? The wind must have planted it, or maybe the birds. And next to it, there was an echinacea among the golden rudbeckia. And that wasn't all. Everywhere I worked, I found odd combinations of plants growing together, chives and tulips, spurge and sandcherry, all anything but orderly, organized, or perfectly arranged.

That's when it dawned on me that God's idea of perfection is probably wider and wilder than anything we can begin to imagine. Purple lupins among red bergamot. Pink cone flowers mixed in with bright yellow brown-eyed susans. And soil covered with old leaves and sticks and last year's foliage to hold in the moisture so that everything grows better.

And so it is with our lives. Our idea of perfection is too often tied to the orderly, law-abiding, eye-catching, and ego-driven. But God often surprises us: "Why can't I plant yellow and pink together? Why can't I make people straight and gay? Why can't I forgive even those who seem unforgivable? Why can't I love everyone as much as I love you? And what's with this fixation on perfection? Don't you know that you learn and grow the most because of your imperfections? And why can't you see that perfection is defined by loving as I love, forgiving as I forgive, and accepting yourself and others as I accept you?"

I knocked down the dead stalks, left the soil covered with last fall's organic matter, and smiled to myself. The yard doesn't look "perfect" by any means, and never will, but I'm thinking of it as my collaboration with a God whose ways are not human ways and whose thoughts are not human thoughts. Who sees my imperfections as my points of growth. Whose perfection isn't even imaginable. And whose garden colour schemes and other plans are definitely wilder and more imaginative than my own could ever be.

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