Since the blossoms are turning into green beans;
Since the tomatoes are crowding each other for a peek of the red-ripening sun;
Since going to the garden feeds my soul as well as my family, I look forward every year to the season of hunkering down between the bean plants. It’s challenging this year with a summer job, but this is my twenty-seventh garden, so I’ve definitely signed on for the long haul of canning and sticky jam-making on hot July afternoons.
Weeding was terrifying in my early days of gardening. How can you tell a beet seedling from an imposter when both are tinged with red? And I truly thought I would perish before finishing our first season of bean canning — sixty-five shiny new pint jars full of green beans. Ironically, in 2015, I canned 63 quarts and 55 pints, and never once thought I would perish.
From my garden, I am learning about diligence.
The garden yields its treasures to the worker who plants, weeds, picks, prepares, and preserves its bounty. When I pick veggies, I have learned to use my sense of touch as well as sight. For example, green peppers blend in so well with their bushy plant that last fall I underestimated their number and carried a small bucket to hold the harvest. When that was full, I requisitioned a decrepit Tonka truck from the sandbox and loaded it too!
Where had this unexpected bounty come from?
Picking, I had used two hands, holding onto each plant and feeling every inch.
I wish I could say that my devotional habits mirrored my gardening practices. Do I read as if I were working in the garden, ransacking every verse for every morsel of truth to feed my soul?
I’m afraid that sometimes I pick up the Bible as if it were a sales flyer. “Anything good on sale this week?” A quick scan for bargains, and then on to the next item in the junk mail pile.
I have friends of the heart who talk to me sadly about their truth-harvesting habits. As I listen and commiserate, I think of Paradise Lost by John Milton, the book that sat on my night stand for three years.
I knew I should read it.
I knew that when I did read it I would love it! (“He also serves who sits and waits,” wrote Milton on his blindness. Beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to read more of his writing?)
One thing I know for sure: when I harvest my green peppers, I’m not thinking about eggplants (as lovely as eggplants are!).
From my garden, I am learning about focus.
When the psalmists wrote about this kind of concentration, they used the Hebrew word hagah, usually translated as “meditate.” (See Psalm 1:2; 63:6) In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson connects the dots to Isaiah 31:4 where the prophet uses the same Hebrew word to refer to a lion growling over its prey. Our St. Bernard, Tucker, concentrates on his bones and chewy toys in the same noisy and focused state of mind. In Peterson’s opinion, “Meditation is too tame a word. Isaiah’s lion chewed and swallowed when he meditated.” I am interested in cultivating this kind of reading — spiritual reading that feeds my soul.
“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Psalm 119:18
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