In this season of spring, renewal and rebirth, I’ve been thinking: what have I learned about myself—and about God—from being a gardener?
From studying his work I’ve come to know the workman. I’ve come to better understand his garden, his creation, his creatures.
I’ve learned that each of God’s flowers, however imperfect, is perfect to him. God doesn’t make mistakes; he doesn’t make junk. Like every thing in my garden, and like every other creature in God’s garden, I’m perfect as is. I was meant to be as I am, as I have been, as I will be. Through me and through all his creations, God expressed his will, and declared it good. I am his will, and I am good.
I’ve learned that God loves diversity, or else why would he have created anew each flower and each snowflake? I’m different from every other creation, and my uniqueness is holy. When asked what he had learned about God from his studies, Darwin replied, “God seems to have had an inordinate fondness for beetles” (the very diverse species which Darwin particularly studied as a young man.)
I’ve learned that God doesn’t mow down dandelions because they’ve been bad. I’m not individually judged, targeted, punished, or rewarded. God’s world works the way it works exactly as he meant it to work. Along with every other creature, I’m subject to his inexorable laws of cause and effect, laws he quite deliberately set in motion. Sun shines and rain falls unpredictably and arbitrarily on all of us, and there’s an inexorable and unprejudiced justice in that. God’s not in the business of interfering with cause and effect.
I’ve learned that God is in the business of nurturing the processes of life, and of celebrating life’s cycles. Like all his creations in his garden, I was supposed to be born and I’m supposed to die, and—if I’m lucky—I’ll have some time in between to grow.
I’ve learned that I’m expected to turn toward the sun and try hard to grow bigger and stronger and smarter, to understand God’s laws and live fully within them. I’m also expected to accept disease, decay, and death as a natural part of life.
I’ve learned that I’m loved. God is bounteous, and provides richly for each creature whatever it needs to live the life he expects of it until its time to die. If I ask for something and God doesn’t give it to me, I don’t need it.
I’ve learned that I’m not just a unique flower; I’m also the air and the soil and the nutrients, the rain and the light and the whole ecological system supporting me. My identity is dual—I’m both an individual and an integral part of a whole. I’m a unique self and a larger self.
I’ve learned that, just as each creature does its part to support all of life, it is supported in return by all of life. I am meant to support all of life just as if it were my self—which it is. I do unto life as I would have it do unto me, I treat others as I would like to be treated. Life blesses me, and I bless life.
I’ve learned that although flowers die, life is eternal. When my unique body/identity/self dies, my connected self will spring forth renewed, born again. I’m part of life, part of God, one with God—and life/God/self go on forever.
I’ve learned from my garden to let go of my insistence upon fairness and equality in earthly outcomes, and to accept instead whatever God offers. Life abundant and life eternal are God’s precious and generous versions of love and justice. I tend his garden humbly, contributing my own invaluable and unique gifts in appreciation and peace.
Happy Easter, happy Purim, happy spring to all! Happy season-of-welcoming-new-life-birth-rebirth-cycles-processes-growth-nurturing-beauty-and-joy! And happy gardening….