Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Heart as a Garden

The last couple weeks I have been thinking about sustainable gardening/permaculture and conventional modern agriculture and how it compares in some aspects to the Christian life. I think I first thought about it while listening to a sermon in which the parable of the seed was briefly mentioned. The parallels hit me all at once.

In permaculture type gardening, one of the basic principles is the awareness of the effect of plowing on soil structure. A plow turns over the top few inches of dirt, exposing the underside to more oxygen, and burying the bacteria and organic matter that were on top. This disruption and extra oxygen creates a temporary flurry of activity among the soil organisms that make up a soil’s fertility. However, the effect is not exactly the most healthy one. It is better compared to the effect of drugs on a human, making them “high” for a while before the “crash.” We all know how drugs eventually ruin a person’s health. It is the same with soil. Too much plowing, and the bacteria will exhaust all available resources in the soil, and then die. Then you have dead soil. Permaculture gardeners have developed many ways to garden and farm without needing a plow, and the techniques and results are truly fascinating, to me anyway. :-)

However, my point today is this. I was thinking about how often I have gone to church or somewhere else, and felt God really speaking to me about something. Sometimes I am really convicted about something I need to change. But then I leave, and so often I blithely and easily forget all about the conviction. Many other Christians do that as often as I do. We don’t mean to, but we do. Then we listen to another sermon about the good soil and bad soil, and our guilt feelings are so strong that we resolve for the 276th time to be good soil from now on. Maybe we make another “I’ll be good, really,” promise to ourselves and God, and we go home and figure out all the ways we’ll make sure to read our Bible more and decide to get up early to pray, and do all sorts of "good things." We start well, but two days later, we are already burned out. After enough cycles of this, we have so many different floating guilt feelings that our hearts grow harder. We try not to think about what we should be doing, and we ignore messages telling us to do this or that better. We feel like it’s impossible to make ourselves “be good.” Isn’t this like a plowed field? Cycles of frenzied, unhealthy activity, leading to an eventual absence of life and growth.

The last few years it seems like I’ve been learning about what is really a Christian’s responsibility for personal growth, and what isn’t. I am not my own Shepherd – it is not my responsibility to force myself to “be good.” That is NOT what Christianity is about AT ALL. However, like a careful gardener works daily to monitor relationships between plants, animals, bugs, microbes, and minerals as he enables (not forces) the ground to grow its crop, my job is simply to keep doing my best to monitor my relationship with God and other people, planting and fertilizing biblical relationship patterns, and weeding out things, especially time wasters and sins such as resentments that interfere with those relationships, so that God can grow the crops he wants in me. Like permaculture, doing that is a daily process that should happen without extreme effort, unlike the massive amounts of energy that sustaining conventional agriculture/fake Christianity takes.

In case I sound like a horrible goody-goody here, I’ll just say right now that my main purpose in posting this is to remind me of this in the future. I’ve let myself slide off track in some areas lately, and I’m not really proud of myself. Sometimes it helps to not only verbalize something, but to write it down, too. Basically, I have some weeding to do, and even more fertilizers to focus on. And now that I have more time, I really need to make sure I use that resource wisely, rather than filling it up with unproductive time wasters…


L

3 comments:

Aaron said...

The last few years it seems like I’ve been learning about what is really a Christian’s responsibility for personal growth, and what isn’t. I am not my own Shepherd – it is not my responsibility to force myself to “be good.” That is NOT what Christianity is about AT ALL.

Wow - you totally nailed it with this one. Really good stuff. (Gal. 3:3)

"DJ" said...

Wonderfully stated! Thanks for sharing. We Christians need to read things like this from other Christians to remember we aren't alone in our struggles. We always have Christ, but it helps to hear from fellow believers, too, for accountability and encouragement.

L said...

I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. :-)