I started working in a garden last January. I wanted to learn more about plants, food, how the Earth works, and what happens when we listen to it. I expected to come away from the job with a deeper appreciation for creation and practical gardening skills.
Within the first few days of wrapping up in wool and digging in the dirt on cold winter mornings, I was already learning way more than I bargained for.
One morning specifically knocked me to my knees. I was by myself in the garden on a winter morning that was trying its hardest to turn into spring. I was trying to tame a mint bush. (For context, mint is like the glitter of plants. You start with the smallest bush possible, and it expands till it’s choking out every growing thing in its path. So the mint needed lots of taming.) Taming the mint bush was brutal. I spent my entire shift on one stubborn bush. At first I tried to be gentle, only pulling one sprig at a time. As I pulled one sprig, its roots connected to at least five other sprigs around it. They all seemed connected. It was easy to pull one sprig at a time and believe the job was done, but the roots were still there. New sprigs would pop up in a matter of days.
The roots had to come up too. I had to dig deeper.
Taming the mint bush quickly got messy. The knees of my jeans were covered in mud and mulch. My hands were dirty and scratched. As I tugged a sprig with one hand, I had to dig under the roots with the other hand, and with one motion pulled sprig and roots out of the earth together. My body resisted the work as the bush resisted its pruning. My knees ached from bearing weight for so long. My back was tight was bending and straightening over and over again. My hands were tired from digging. But the work needed to be done, so I kept going. When my shift was coming to a close, I had a bucket stuffed with mint remains, a tired body, and dirt everywhere. But the job still was not complete.
I expected to learn a lot while working in the garden. What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about God, the ultimate Gardener, in the garden.
To keep a garden healthy and thriving, it needs consistent and intentional care. The gardener must be mindful of the big picture and the smallest details to accomplish the best level of care. When each individual plant’s needs are cared for well, the whole garden flourishes.
For me to take care of the whole garden, I had to tend to this one mint bush. For me to tend to this one mint bush, I had to dig up roots and get my hands dirty.
This is what our Gardener does for His kids. This is how our God tends to the Church.
God is actively planting, gathering, harvesting, pruning, and cultivating growth within the Church, within us. God tends to the whole garden, orchestrating the Kingdom coming on Earth as it is in Heaven. God sees the whole picture, knowing the plans written for the Church.
And at the same time, the Gardener is taking care of me.
As the Gardener tends to all in His care, the Gardener sees me and knows me. He sees my roots and how they hurt others.
My heart is like the mint bush I was wrestling with that morning. It has grown, stretched, and set roots in countless directions. But not all of my roots are helpful to me or to the people around me. Many of my roots are deep in the soil of pride, fear, doubt, and anger. These roots grow from me into sprigs of thoughts, words, and actions. They begin to inhibit growth for myself and those around me. As the Gardener tends to all in His care, the Gardener sees me and knows me. He sees my roots and how they hurt others. He knows how these roots spread me thin and take growth away from other parts of my heart.
So God does to my heart what any good gardener would do to the mint bush. He prunes it.
Over the past several months, God has been pruning my heart, pulling the sprigs of pride and apathy, while digging up the roots of anger and fear. And it hurts. Those roots have been present for a long time. They are connected to lots of patterns of thinking. But God is a good gardener and decides that my heart, one little mint bush, is more than worth the effort. The Gardener digs, gets His hands dirty. As He removes the roots of anger and fear, He provides more space for new growth that is more aligned with His love and grace. He gives nourishment through the Spirit and the Word. New roots begin to grow, but this time in soils of joy and confidence.
I’ve been a witness to my own slow transformation. I’ve felt the shift from growing in anger and fear to growing in joy.
New roots grow slowly, but they grow. When old roots start to pop up again, the Gardener is present and ready to get dirty all over again. Pruning hurts. No denying that. But I have been able to see the fruits from Gardener’s work in my heart. I’ve been a witness to my own slow transformation. I’ve felt the shift from growing in anger and fear to growing in joy.
The Gardener sees you and cares for you. When you feel Him tugging on old roots, lean in, get dirty, and expect the new growth the pruning will create space for in your heart.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I will always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6
Kate Moore is a senior Psychology and Religion major from Brooks, GA. She is found most frequently in the garden, at Swift & Finch, and in her car with the windows down. After graduation, Kate hopes to pursue work in outdoor and youth ministry and (eventually) earn a Master’s in Counseling.