One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.
One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in several days is that I spent all weekend pretty much working on our house, whether it be in the house painting, or in the backyard planting flowers in our garden, and trimming back the shrubs. And by the time the day ended I was completely exhausted and blogging was the last thing I wanted to do. But to be honest, I have really enjoyed just getting out in the yard and doing manual labor, while listening to the birds sing. I am realizing just how much time I spend working in front of a computer or reading behind books. And though I workout at the gym and run, there is nothing quite like manual labor to really “center”, or bring back oneself to the reality of life and what is important. There is something beautiful about having your hands deep in soil as you plant flowers, or something beautiful about building a picnic table, sanding, staining, and painting it.
I find it interesting that in John 20:15, when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, the gospel writer says, “Jesus, said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener……….” I am not making any theological implications about this, but I like the idea of Creation being birthed and placed in a garden that Adam and Eve were to tend to….I like that Jesus is mistaken for the gardener…..I like the idea that we as Christians are to be about the task of putting our hands in the soil and tending to what God has given us, and to the places that He placed us. I like the idea that we need to get out from behind our computers and books and TV’s and video games, and we need to put our hand into the soil and tend to it.
As I write this, I recall some thoughts by my professor Dr. Ray Anderson from his book, Unspoken Wisdom: Truths My Father Taught Me. When he decided to leave his farmland and the vocation of being a farmer for the ministry, he wrote these words:
“I was pleasantly surprised to discover, even after only a few months, that my new ‘calling’ had not left and empty space. Nor did I long for what had been or what might have been. What I had expected to be a painful uprooting turned out to be a transplant–roots and all–from one soil to another.
What my father had discovered, but left for me to learn on my own, was that there was neither mystery nor magic in the soil. The mystery and magic, if we dare to use such words, lie in the connection of the heart to the hand. There is no place or task on earth satisfying to the restless hand that is not attached to the heart.
On that day long ago, my father had not attached my hand to the soil of a farm–although that was how I had understood it. Rather, he had attempted to attach my hand to my heart. No matter what “soil” my hand was plunged into, if the task was undertaken with my heart, there was a sense of completeness that brought joy and fulfillment. My father’s once-in-a-lifetime gift was the ability to grow in any soil, the ability to be not only transplanted by transformed–by loving what I do. (pp.18)
As we approach Easter, I wonder what it is that you and I have our hands in? Is what we have our hands in, attached to our hearts? Do we take care of and tend to the things that God has given over into our care? What is the soil that God has given us to work in?