The garden is running late this year. Cold nights (making for cold soil) have resulted in pea plants that sprouted on schedule, grew to a fixed point, and then sputtered and stalled out, stunted. The prophet Isaiah had things to say about who is in charge of growth, both in the garden and in the human heart:
“For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:11 NKJV)
Here, Isaiah is addressing a people who had been appointed to be a kingdom of priests, a reality which will be realized in its fullest sense when Christ establishes his Kingdom, but, for now, the role and the right spills over onto present day believers, the Church.
Gardening is a hint, a reasonable guess, directed at biblical mysteries around growth, fruition, and results. In real time, here on the ground, we are called to bear witness to the bringing forth and the springing forth, the budding and the blossoming of New Covenant righteousness in the rocky soil of human nature and in the weedy fields of inborn willfulness. If our purpose here on God’s green Earth is to “put down roots” and “put up leaf,”* it follows, then, that God is with us in all our sprouting–and even in all our wilting.
Celebrating God’s Presence and God’s Work
The miracle of Emmanuel, of God with us, shows up at every garden and at every graveside. He is present for both victory and disappointment, and, therefore, our calling is clear: We are to celebrate the miracle of his presence.
There are no blinding Damascus Road beacons in my garden, no whiplash conversions from darkness to light. There is, instead, a quiet watering of work already begun, a gentle placement of stakes that support growth and encourage healthy formation.
Ten days with a hundred Christian teens bent on summer ministry can be a clarifying experience for a gardener who frequently questions the significance of her calling to teach and train believers. It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality. The turn around from shallow faith and a safely-distant following of Christ is also a significant victory, and it is worth celebrating because God is present in this work.
Emmanuel is a horizon-filling name, and it is only in his power that the beloved of God answer the call to be saints. As the roots go down and the leaves grow up, they spring forth for his glory.
May the beauty of Emmanuel change your day and your life,
Image Credit: The lovely image of my garden featuring Isaiah 61 was a special gift from my friend Abby (who is also a special gift). She writes and shares her giftedness with graphic design at Little Birdie Blessings.
*This delightful phrase is from Maxine Kumin’s To Make a Prairie, p. 7.
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