moving forward – back to the garden

enjoying the back garden at Maul-Hall
enjoying the back garden at Maul-Hall

According to the calendar, it’s May 26 and North Carolina is moving into the summer months. But I have the house wide-open again this morning, Rebekah and I enjoyed breakfast on the deck, and yesterday afternoon, after a few hours of gardening, we sat in the shade, listening to the leaves rustle and feeling the balm of a gentle afternoon breeze.

I’m not really much of a gardener – that’s Rebekah’s purview – but I am a gardeneer (made-up word), or maybe more accurately a garden-dweller. Like the Japanese Maples we just planted, the row of nandina we put in this weekend, or the hydrangea Rebekah has been nurturing, I thrive in the garden.

IT IS GOOD: The garden is good for my soul. Of course, this is exactly what God understood so clearly when the first humans were place in a garden. “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. In the fertile land, the Lord God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:8-9

I don’t think it’s an accident that the biblical narrative begins in a garden and then returns there at the end of Revelation. I wrote about this in my book The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian, this pervasive sense that our spiritual lives are about “moving forward, back to the garden.”

I believe this is one reason we feel so at home, so naturally comfortable, so comforted, so nurtured in a garden. God wants to water us, to grow us, to refresh us; and then – as the Revelation passage suggests – to use us, in our refreshed state, “for the healing of the nations.”

On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.” – Rev 22:2

putting in the row of nandina
putting in the row of nandina

Some see the experience of Christian community as a fortress against the world; but I have been experiencing both home and church as a garden, a place where I am renewed, where I can grow, where I am strengthened, and where I can go out from to invite others in.

Its gates,Revelation 21 points out, “will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there.” 

In other words, this garden is also our constant invitation – DEREK

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