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The Grace of the Gardener

Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. Job 2:4-6a

Over the years, we have increased our gardening interests, skills, and knowledge. We've gone from zero to just above that, but are taking great delight in the results of slow progress now spreading out in blooming azaleas, hydrangeas, wildflowers, corrugated shrubbery, and now edible plants like okra, tomatoes, arugula, basil, and more. Terrell is the planter and landscape designer between the two of us. I did string up some lights and added a Pawleys Island hammock a few years ago. But what I have found most satisfying, oddly, is the weeding. You don't really notice when someone has spent hours weeding because, purposefully, they aren't remaining to be seen. Even the cleaner, tidier landscape doesn't announce the hard work of weeding but instead more clearly showcases the plants that were being assaulted and slowly engulfed by the weeds.

Weeds are subtle and the worst of them have tiny thorns with which to attach ferociously to their victimized host. Because of this, they can wind about in a stealthy way so you never know how long the strand may go when you first identify a part to pull. The goal is to get the roots of the weed to remove it permanently, but I am not that successful yet. They often break before I can figure out their full existence. What is also curious is that as I create a mountain of pulled weeds, I can more readily see the many others who have made their silent home under cover of all the other weeds. Its crazy how many weeds can grow around one section of the yard and how many layers there can be.

What struck me today as I reflected on my besetting sins and failures to bear the fruit of the Spirit in a flourishing way, was that the plants themselves cannot remove the vines and weeds that seek to kill and destroy them. The Gardener's hands have to come in from outside the plant to pull those weeds off, unwrap them, and free the plants from their thorny entanglements. I tend to want God's glory to be reflected in me (and those I love) simply by the exercise of more discipline and self-control, or by employing more patience, love, hope, kindness, etc. without fully appreciating the life-sucking vines that God must remove for that fruit to fourish.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11

What is keeping me back from bearing much fruit and what is hindering those I love are those thorny vines that we can't pull off of ourselves but need to have the Gardener free us from just as His production of the fruit is the only way we can bear any at all.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 14:4-5

It is such good news that He is the potter and I am the clay(Is. 64:8), that He completes the good work He has begun (Phil. 1:6), and that He makes everything beautiful in its time (Eccles. 3:11).

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3


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