So much time and energy in life is spent in chasing after the many things we think we need. Our world is so geared towards servicing our whims and desires, we are shocked and dismayed if we can't find what exactly we are looking for. Even when I go online and shop for books, I find what I'm looking for and more! On my Amazon account, after I log in, a store called "Tara's Store" flashes at the top of the page stating – " We have more suggestions for you!"
A personalized "store" has been compiled by the purchases I've made over the past several years, the merchandise I've casually browsed, and the wish lists I've compiled on rainy days all in the name of customer service and consumption. There are literally thousands of potential items in my store that are ready and waiting for expedited delivery for the cost listed in the right hand column next to my blinking virtual shopping cart. At this moment of window-shopping, do I really consider what I need or am I totally wrapped up in my individualistic world of shopping via impulse.
Honestly, there are many things that I've purchased in life that are totally needed and have been great resources of personal increase in knowledge and growth and I have no problem with those kinds of "need" purchases.
On the other hand, there are many things I've purchased that a completely based upon my own personal whims, desires and "I want that!" moments. Many times these are the things I find myself tripping on as I walk through my home or not quite recalling why I bought them in the first place. I find myself asking myself – "Why did I buy this? What did I need it for?"
Recently, I've been trying to do a little yard work around my home. Tilling up some weeds, trimming some hedges and planting a few flowers. In the midst of my novice gardening attempts I've made friends with a neighbor who loves to garden. She was telling me one day that when she gardens that is when she had her best conversations with God. Her words made me stop and think for a moment. What is it about gardening that allows her the atmosphere for chatting with God? Is there a connection with working with the soil and the nurturing of relationship with God?
A few days later, I met another individual who was involved with a local project that is working in establishing community gardens in Chautauqua County. Their goal is to educate people in caring for the planet by learning how to plant, nurture and harvest their own fruits and vegetables. They also hope to develop greater bonds and relationship within communities by bringing people from many backgrounds together to share in the work. It was also interesting to me that this person spoke of the connection with God in this act of gardening in community. (www.gleanchautauqua.org)
In both of these conversations there was a common connection between the development of spiritual formation and relationship in the act of gardening.
As I pondered this question of gardening and God, I began reading my most recent purchase from, "Tara's Store". It's a book called Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne. He begins the book describing the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and says…
" ...In the garden, there were no wars, no poverty, no pollution or pandemics. There were no fast-food joints or sweatshops. Neither Republicans or Democrats were to be found, not even the Green Party. Things were perfect. But amid all the organic, non-genetically modified or artificially pesticided trees full of fruit, there was one tree that the first humans were not supposed to touch – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned Adam and Eve that if they ate of its fruit they would discover something called, "death". God warned them that they could not be both immortal and know both good and evil." (Jesus for President, pg. 26)
We all know what Adam and Eve decide to do – they choose to touch and eat the one fruit that God warned them not to among a garden full of bounty. They have an e the thought, "But I want it!" and they go after what they think they want.
Here they are living in a beautiful loving environment where they have ongoing conversation and relationship with God, but they somehow think the one thing they don't have will make them happy, complete or whole. Sadly, they find out that what they thought would fulfill them ends up evicting them from their home and honest, sincere and unrestrained conversation and relationship with God. Simply speaking, Adam and Eve traded perfection for that "suggested product" that they only ended tripping over saying – "Why did we want this anyway?"
Jeremiah 29 11-14 challenges us a Jesus followers to reevaluate what the desires of our heart really are. Are we seeking the garden and conversation with God or are we seeking the next impulse item on our shopping lists?
The Message reads this way:
"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. 13-14"When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you."
There is this challenge that Jesus speaks to his disciples in John 17:15-19
5My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
As followers of Jesus, the disciples were to function as people set apart for God's purpose. Just as the disciples were set apart and sanctified to be in relationship with God – so are we!
When we desire the trinkets of this world more than we desire to live in the Garden with God – our lives fail to bear the fruit and evidence of that holy relationship. Just as the Message said in Jeremiah – " when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you."
God desires to provide us a garden in life. Luke 11: 11-13 reminds us of the great love God has for us.
11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for [f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
God has the ability to see beyond our limited perspective in life. God can see beyond our whims, weaknesses and desire for what we want right now. God desires to love, care and provide the best for us and sometimes that different than what we can immediately see or imagine.
Would you trade a dime store trinket for paradise with God? Just as a reminder, living in the garden with God is not an all-expense paid holiday with fancy umbrella decorated drinks and poolside lounge chairs as far as the eye can see. Caring for a garden requires work, patience and effort and it is not as easy as point and click consumerism. Living in and with God in the garden of life requires faith, community and sweat.
As followers of Jesus, may we recognize our basic need for conversation and relationship with God and remember how being set apart can free us from our own "stores" and help us to cultivate the garden of life in the world around us.
For more information on Urban Gardening Projects click here: Ohio State University
(Banner photo from The Ohio State University Extension.)