Lessons from the Garden

 A joyous springtime of renewal and growth to all! A glorious Easter to all who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

I am increasingly fascinated by the cycle of life after death and growth after loss. At Easter, Christians joyfully celebrate this very thing: Jesus resurrected to new life after His death on a cross, thereby earning new life for each of us. But this cycle is part of life for all of us.

Farmers and gardeners know this. Dead plants produce seeds that later sprout into new life. Sometimes this is spontaneous like the surprise impatiens or tomato plants that pop up unexpectedly in the garden from last year’s plantings. More often it takes work to produce a crop, to bring about the new life and growth.

But, remember—total death is not always needed for there to be renewal and new life. Pruning is a visible reminder of this magic. When I first started gardening 8-9 years ago, I was amazed at how much there was to prune, and then more amazed at the vitality of what grew back. 

 Sometimes we choose to prune ourselves, such as during Lent, Ramadan or Yom Kippur—traditional periods of repentance for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This pruning consists of intentional dying-to-self, giving up certain habits or activities, sacrificing, fasting, praying, or reflecting. We believe this increased devotion to God, this temporary re-ordering of our priorities, will make us stronger, renew our faith and renew us—just like a plant that has been pruned. Christians die to self so we can be reborn in a new life in Christ.

Even if we don’t chose to prune ourselves, life circumstances or another person can prune us. Consider illness, disability, job loss, relationship failures, or divorce. In each situation, even though we didn’t choose it, we must face loss, each a mini-death. The good news is that we maintain the ability to choose how we react, our attitude and our actions— assuming mental illness is not a factor. Although this is difficult, by prayer, reflection, seeking counsel, cultivating humility and gratitude for the blessings we do do have, we can grow stronger in body, mind and/or spirit —one small step at a time. Aging itself is the ultimate pruning, albeit slow motion. Judith Viorst in Necessary Losses beautifully describes “The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations that All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow.” 

What does all this matter? Because it is good news. All of it. The spring flowers. The greening trees. The lives transformed after illness or tragedy or disappointment. Finally, for Christians, the good news of salvation is our hope of eternal life.

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”

—Martin Luther

Suggestions:

1. Go for an unhurried walk in a park or arboretum. Or in your neighborhood if you are lucky enough to have blooming trees or early spring flowers.

2. What are you called to prune? Too much screen time? Too much fast food? Too much time and effort spent developing your reputation, bank account, beauty, number of “likes,” or whatever?

3. Read Necessary Losses. This book was written in 1986 by a cool lady! She started out as an author of children’s books, including the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. In 1981, at the age of 50, she graduated from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute and became a psychoanalysis researcher, journalist, and writer.

God bless all of you,

Donna

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“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Because of His great mercy He gave us new life raising Jesus Christ from death.
This fills us with a living hope.”
—1 Peter 1:3