Every spring I have ambitious plans for creating a beautiful haven in my back yard. I pour over magazines, dreaming of lush plants, tranquil water features, and sheer beauty spilling from every bed. I put on my gardening gloves and head out, ready to conquer the curse of thorns and thistles and bring beauty and order to my corner of creation.
I usually last about 4 hours before I give up.
Gardening is hard! This year we spent all of our time and gardening budget on removing poison ivy and hauling in a truckload of rich soil. None of this produced the magazine worthy garden of my dreams. Yet all of it was incredibly necessary. Gardening takes time, hard work, and patience. It requires me to commit to the long haul, to get my hands dirty, and to wear myself out investing in things no one else will see so that beauty can spring forth from a ground that is cursed. I struggle to live in the tension that exists between toil and fruition.
Digging in a Desolate Land
I am not alone in this struggle. In some of Israel’s hardest seasons, when their lives probably felt like a pile of dirt and poison ivy, God made his people a promise. He spoke of a day when, “their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more” (Jer. 31:12). To his people living in exile, who lived with uncertainty and unrest, God proclaimed, “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden…I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which is desolate” (Ez. 36:35-36). God comforted his children in tumultuous times by reminding them that he is a gardener…