Notre Dame on fire ...
Because nature reflects both God’s design and human experience, in the cool of the day I leave my desk and go to the garden, for truth.
The world is dishing up falsehood and distraction. Sen. Kamala Harris is lobbing not-quite-truth bombs at fellow Democrat Joe Biden over busing, a civil rights issue from half a century ago. A British tribunal of experts has concluded for “certain” that China is killing tens of thousands of political prisoners for forced organ harvesting—and still the transplant tourists flock there. The tyrants always have their apologists, spinning lies for power minute by minute.
The garden speaks a truer word, an authentic testimony in a landscape full of forgeries. In a land crying scarcity, this year my piece of ground serves up a riot of abundance.
From strawberry season to cherry tomato picking, our terraced beds are producing at an exuberant rate, far outpacing the efforts I’ve put into them. Thriving crops for once crowd out weeds. The community flower beds, planted late, surprised us with lush early blooms, volunteers reseeded from last year’s crop.
The garden’s short life cycle mirrors our mortality swallowed up by life.
On average, my town receives 37 inches of rain a year. Last year we had a record-breaking 75 inches. Rains that a year ago produced root rot this year have plumped the water table, building a margin against my poor husbandry, invaders, and drought.
In past years here, I’ve shared painful lessons stirred up by poison ivy, pests, and harvests of neglect. This summer is different. Can I rest in plenty? the garden asks. Can I see the joy of harvest amid all the strife? Can I seek out the invisible attributes of God, like the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:20), in the things that have been made?
In this nation of abundance, we find ourselves squeezed into narratives of scarcity. Trade wars threaten just when global economies of scale are helping to feed, clothe, and educate the world like never before. A border crisis with hideous displays of children taken from parents unfolds while geography and technology make possible secure and orderly immigration. A Hobson’s choice arises for women who possess more freedom and equality than any other generation of women before: All is for naught, we’re told, without an unlimited right to abortion, a woman’s flourishing at the expense of her children.
One of the most overlooked things God says in Scripture is: What do you see?
“Jeremiah, what do you see?” “Amos, what do you see?” “Son of man, have you seen?” The question is an invitation, a call to God’s side, where we labor in His company and rest in His abundance. Can we see as God sees and be healed from our world’s blindness?
A bounty, in the garden and in life, springs not only from excess but also from wise limitations. This year I discovered the Korean hand hoe, an implement both sharp and blunt, and my vegetable beds are thanking me. Stepping up to hard labor with ready tools is essential.
And a final limitation, of course, is the cycle of life and death. My garden’s June exuberance is only for a season. Age is gifting me with a more patient and trained eye to enjoy present blessings knowing they will end. The seed must fall to the ground and die to yield its plenty.
Our resurrection body “will come to us as an enormous enrichment of the embodied life” we have now, writes theologian J.I. Packer, “though as different from it as a seed is from the plant that grows out of it.” The garden’s short life cycle, with its “further clothed” summer state, mirrors our mortality swallowed up by life.
The Biggest Little Farm is a summer sleeper of a movie full of life lessons learned on a busy acreage. To succeed, farmer-filmmaker John Chester learns to set aside harmony on his land in favor of a “comfortable level of disharmony.” In one poignant scene, the coyote, he learns, may be serving a purpose. “Farming is constant observation, followed by creativity, followed by humility,” Chester says. It’s a cycle yielding abundance in due season, and hope always.