These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2010

i saw God in the garden

There's something so humbling about gardening. And something so spiritual.

As I dug my fingers into the dirt, pulling out the carrots too stubborn to come up with their tops, I began to experience a strange sense of belonging. Moreover, the feeling of contentedness crept within me so gradually and so naturally I somehow wished I could do this for a little longer. Of course, I was periodically vigorously defending myself against a barrage of mosquitoes, but I was also enjoying this act of harvesting. With each carrot I pulled out of the ground a smile came across my face - especially as the carrots came out longer and thicker. It didn't matter to me that the tops ripped off and I had to dig for the produce - something that normally would've irritated me after three or four times. No, I was too proud the little kernels my wife and I planted some two months ago - which appeared so much like little chunks of walnut or stone - had now become something else entirely. This little piece of land behind our landlord's tool shed was no longer merely a rectangular plot of dirt - nay, it was now a full-fledged garden, bursting with green, yellow, and red. Our earthen womb was giving birth, and here I knelt at the wooden border, picking out carrots.

As I moved on to the next row, now pulling beets out of the dirt, I couldn't help but realise how little work we had actually done. Certainly, when the dirt was dry I unravelled the hose from its spindle on the side of the house and showered the garden, ensuring the bed was good and wet. And every once in a while we'd head back there, picking out all the weeds we could possibly find - discovering that these little unwelcome shoots could conjure up a degree of anger. Yet the frequency these things were done remained minimal, not only because the rain this summer was substantial. Indeed, I often couldn't help but muse on whether God Himself was securing the prosperity of our garden, sending so much rain upon us.

As I stalked the swiss chard, cutting ripe leaves and stuffing them in a plastic bag, I came across a large, cupped leaf. As I turned it for examination, I found in the underside of the curve a spider who had made his home there. I stopped for a second, recalling the grasshoppers I had seen hopping about at the end of the garden the peas and beans were growing. Suddenly, a thought came to me. Suddenly, I began to sense this garden was not our garden.

Although we had worked the ground and planted the seeds, we could not own this garden. At best, we had worked together, God and us, to transform this piece of land into something more than merely dirt - but we certainly did not overcome it. Humans have developed a mentality which states our Biblical dominion over the earth is a right and therefore the earth is ours to dominate. However, the Hebraic meaning of this concept is much more of stewardship and creating equilibrium with God's earth. Thus, we have been privileged to start a garden and the bowl of food I crouched to harvest comes as a blessing. It is our mandate to care for the earth, but it is God who 'covers the sky with clouds' and 'supplies the earth with rain.'1

Right there in our garden I glimpsed a bit of this cohabitation, feeling nearly guilty cleaning the spider and its web off the leaf. This garden was home and food for creatures other than myself and my wife. As true as God's provision for us is God's provision for the animals of His earth.2 Indeed, God informs Job He is there at the birth of a goat's kids and the doe's fawn - it is God who provides food for the raven, and waters the land where even humans do not live.3 And here in our backyard God gave the grasshopper food, the spider a home and our household vegetables. This was not our garden; we were merely taking care of it, but God was doing the bulk of the work - and He was doing much more with it than we had considered.

Picking our bananas off a display case and choosing our peppers from a refrigerated shelf contains within itself a degree of hubris. Each aisle of the grocery store boasts of our ability to sustain ourselves, our capacity to dominate the environment and shape reality to our wills. The suffering, the poverty, and the crime which is prevalent all around us - as well as the humanitarian efforts, the social justice and the self-policing which serve to raise ourselves to a high and lofty position - push us to forget who God is: the Generous Provider, the Merciful Creator, the Loving Father.

In a garden I have seen God as the Generous Provider. Not only for my wife and I, and all those who share in our meals, but also for the spider, the grasshopper, the worms, and the beetles. Here in this very garden I have seen God 'care for the land and water it,'4 and I have seen Him give food to more than simply ravens. In the garden God has shown His provision - for the earth, for me and for His creatures.

Adonai is a god of the mundane and He cares for us all. Sometimes we just need to be reminded - and sometimes we're reminded when we least expect.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness, and with mercy. He gives food to all flesh, for His kindness is everlasting. Through His great goodness to us continuously we do not lack food, and may we never lack food, for the sake of His great Name. For He, benevolent God, provides nourishment and sustenance for all, does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures whom He has created, as it is said: You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Blessed are You, Adonai, who provides food for all.

-- from the Jewish Grace After Meals




1. Psalm 147:8
2. Deuteronomy 11:15; Psalm 147:9. Additionally, Jesus alludes to these verses in His teaching, stating that God provides for the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, thus we who are more valuable than these should not worry about food nor clothes. See Matthew 6:25-35 and Luke 12:22-34.
3. Job 38-39
4. Psalm 65:9

[posted by ericjordan at 2054 hrs]  

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