Sunday, April 20, 2008

In the Dirt

I have cultivated vegetable gardens for over 20 years. When I move to a new parsonage, locating a garden plot and starting a compost pile are always high on the to-do list.

Gardening is something which grounds me to my past and connects me to mystery. Gardens were a part of my childhood experience. Some of my relatives are farmers. All of my grandparents had gardens. My family had gardens from time to time. Some of my earliest chores involved weeding in the garden and flower beds. A home seems incomplete for me with out vegetables growing somewhere.

Each spring, when I drop a teensy tiny seed into the earth, I am struck by mystery. There is no logical way some speck of a seed can become a tomato plant, a head of lettuce, a bush of beans, a exhaustive supply of zucchini. Yet, a few months later I enjoy the bounty resulting from that tiny seed. This is an encounter with wondrous mystery!

My garden keeps me grounded in the dirt. It helps me mark the passing of the years as I watch the soil grow dark and rich from years of compost. It calls me out of my work routine since even for a low maintenance gardener as my self must take time to pull weeds, tie up branches and pick produce.

The image of gardening permeates my understanding of ministry. In seminary my “theology of ministry” senior paper used gardening as the metaphor for pastoral ministry. (My professors were not overly excited by this.) Yet it remains my primary metaphor focusing on cultivating grow and new life, recognizing the possible fruits, balancing mutually beneficial relationships and practicing selective weeding. Some people have suggested I excel in the production and distribution of fertilizer. I’m not quite sure what they mean.

The garden reminds me of my part in the larger picture. It reminds me of mystery. It reminds me of my own limits and my partnership with the Giver of Life.

So as the days grow warmer you may find me more and more in my garden. If I talk to much about the wonders of compost or seem to proud of my pile of shredded leaves, please be patient. (Don’t even get me started on the profusion of earthworms!) See, it is part of who I am and how I stay connected to the Creator of this wondrous, mystery laden earth.

May you find your way to connect to the mystery of creation and the Creator.