"Of Gardens and Contentment"
The move was sudden. It was a difficult decision. We chose a small condominium where we could plant our own tiny garden if the Condominium Board passed on the plans. A garden had been taking shape in my mind all winter long. The ground began to thaw, the mourning doves began cooing, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I bought the plants, got out my garden tools and knew I had a day of bliss ahead of me. It didn’t take five minutes for me to find out that there was exactly 1 inch of topsoil and underneath was solid clay. It is the only time gardening when I sat down and actually cried.
Wouldn’t it be sheer joy to simply plunk in seeds of “Contentment” and watch them grow? But it just doesn’t happen that way. I was anything but content that day. Then God started speaking into my heart. “Arlita, your heart right now is like your garden. You’ve found there is work to be done in breaking up the hard clay. Only then will you have your garden. And contentment is the same way.”
“Lord, how do I go about it? This ground is simply too hard. I don’t know where to begin, and I certainly am not strong enough to break it up.”
“Arlita, you’ve just taken the first step. You’ve recognized that you can’t have the garden that you long for. Now, recognize and admit that you don’t have the plant of contentment either.”
That night I did a lot of soul-searching. Paul says in I Timothy 6:6 “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
It sounds as though Paul is saying that we might be “godly” but have no fruit of contentment in our garden. Perhaps we have other fruits and flowers, but no contentment.
What does contentment look like? Webster’s dictionary says it is “a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction to the full extent of one’s desires.”
The Lord continued to speak into my heart.
“Arlita, do you really want the “Contentment” plant? It’s costly.”
I thought of this plant in tandem with my own little garden.
Little did I know what it would eventually take in my condo garden! My husband had to use a pick axe and crow bar to loosen the clay. He remembers the pain of it to this day. It was unusable and we had to load it up in a wheel barrow and simply dump it. New top soil and manure was brought in and year after year it has gradually been amended. A Japanese Plum tree stands there now, graceful and tall, overshadowing the seasonal plantings.
To garden is to take part in mystery. To place seeds on the waiting earth, cover them with soil, moisten them, and wait in hope and expectation is a statement of faith. The people of the Bible understood this, so it is not surprising that Israel’s prophets and poets made use of garden images in their proverbs, psalms, allegories, parables, and prophetic utterances. What could I learn from them?
First I had to commit to paying the price. I must stop crying and do something. I decided right then and there I would pay the price of changing the ground. It would take time, patience, money, blood, sweat and tears.
Secondly I had to evaluate the place for the garden. For the plant of Contentment, that meant my heart. Contentment is a matter of the heart. Does it have heavy roots, rocks, sandy soil, rocky soil, clutter?
I decided that I had work to do!
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and reign in righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
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