A Bunch of Dirt?

My neighbor, John, has a wonderful vegetable garden.  When we first built our home, I perceived his gi-normous patch of tilled dirt facing my backyard as a bit of an eyesore.  I seriously considered planting a row of trees to block my view.  However, I bore in mind that the trees wouldn’t only block my view, but his morning sun as well.  Was this a man who took care of his yard, or was I in for an out-of-control weed sanctuary?  April was too soon to tell, so I decided to let this situation play out over the summer.  Turns out, John labored diligently in his garden just about every day.  In early spring he got busy cleaning up winter’s mess in this special plot of land.  He took extraordinary care of all that dirt.  I’d watch out my window as John and his son would till the soil, remove rocks from the soil, fertilize the soil (later I was told of the particular manure he used for best results), mark out rows, and add stakes, ties, and other strange fences for which I knew not why.   After a month of all that hard work, it still just looked like a bunch of dirt.  But it was organized dirt—John had a plan.  He revealed to me later how he actually mapped out his whole garden on paper (which grew larger every year) before each new season.  And it was nutritious dirt—that’s right, ripe with everything necessary for the fruit and vegetables he wanted to grow.   John wouldn’t use sprinklers to water his garden, like the rest of us neighbors did. He individually watered each plant so as not to encourage more weed growth.  Also, my neighbor is insistent on keeping everything organic.  He may have some questionable West Virginia methods for keeping pests out of his garden, but he certifies it all to be chemical-free! Then came the knock on my door.  There stood John, happily offering me a grocery bag full of fresh sugar snap peas—the best snap peas I ever put in my mouth.  Next it was a generous amount of healthy asparagus.  And, you guessed it; I had bountiful amounts of the coveted garden-tomato for the last half of summer.  His Eden facing my backyard put my puny rock-enclosed-circle-garden to shame.  But that’s not all: there were melons, cauliflower, carrots, onions, strawberries, apples, and peanuts!  Everything he’s brought to my door has been fabulously delicious. Fast-forward to my worship service this week.  Our Old Testament reading came from Isaiah 55.  Verses 8-11 particularly stood out to me:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.  “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
  As my pastor read this Scripture it brought John’s garden to my mind.  All of the garden-tending is such good metaphor for how our good Lord works.  He has a plan.  He uses all of His resources, even the manure when we need it, to cause growth in His people.  I’m full of rocks and weeds, but my Lord carefully tills the stony ground of my heart.  To many, the church (God’s garden) might just look like a bunch of dirt.  Sometimes I wonder myself how the Lord is going to produce fruit when things seem so dead and dismal.  But God’s best gardening tool is His word.  His word actually creates life, and surely accomplishes His intended will.  I think of how God’s word feeds us and how He calls people to water His garden through preaching and teaching.  Jesus Christ is the perfect garden-tender, who has paid everything for our entrance, and to guard it from the evil one.  The mighty Lord takes special care of those He loves, and He can do something my good neighbor John cannot.  No matter how much passion John puts into his garden, there are still foils to his plans.  Yet God’s plan and work are perfect.  Let there be no doubt that the good Lord is adding to His church, and will not lose any from His crop. For further meditation: Ezekiel 36:26, John 6:39-40, Rom. 10: 14-15, Rev. 12:10-11