This blog post is proudly brought to you by…Bunnings.
For those international readers, Bunnings is our Australian wonderland of all things Gardening, Hardware, and sausage-and-onion-in-a-bun eating.
It seems that many people decided to pass the extra time at home this year with some sort of home or garden project. We were no different. So, back in April, Alycia and I decided to pursue the goal of a sustainable veggie patch.
At this point, you need to understand that I am to gardening what Mr Bean is to manners and decorum. Moreover, I’m also going to go right on and say that Alycia is also capable of taking any measurement of greenery and turning it into a lunar surface. My point is that we wanted to aim for a challenge. Something that would take real focus and application. It did, and I am proud to say, we succeeded. Not only that, I learned some key spiritual truths caring for my babies….Err..I mean, the veggies along the way:
- Prep is everything.
We are used to things dying in our garden. The issue is that for me, gardening is simply outdoor housework, so I tend to put in the minimal effort. But this time I really wanted this to work, so I spent some money on top-end garden stuff, including 3m3 of pre-mixed veggie soil, a 3.8m aluminium raised tub, weed matting and various retic bits.
But this was only after a whole miniature ‘trial version’ was set up to test soil mixes, retic, drainage, and other stuff. (This has since become the herb garden). Even after we got all the gear, I realised I had to think about the sun and the garden bed’s position. Where we live, the garden bed could easily have been in full sun in summer only to be completely shaded in winter. It is hard to reposition a garden bed with several tonnes of soil in it.
Before a single plant went in, it was all measuring tapes, marker bricks, soil research, mulch research and test-runs. All you want to do is see your own veggies grow but there was a heap of disciplined prep that went into it.
A bit like the spiritual life. We want the fruit of the Spirit to be ‘low hanging’, fast growing and non-effort. But it’s not. Preparation, or in this case spiritual disciplines is everything. But for some reason we tend not to enter spiritual disciplines until/unless we feel like it is our only hope. Perhaps that is the reason why God so often uses crises to prepare us.
I find that God speaks to us a lot of things that we already know on some abstract level. But when we hear them again from him, they sink deep into the heart. This is often accompanied by a sense of awe and wonder. Once the veggies went in, they took off. No one was more surprised than me. I also noticed that I did not at any point need to tell or command any of the plants to grow. They just….grew.
I found the value in the prep I had done but I also realised in a far deeper way that because of who God is, everything in this world that is alive also grows. It just does. We don’t have to make it do it, we simply need to give it the right environment, and God makes it grow. There is something in the bible about this in 1 Corinthians 3. Which leads me to the application it had for me. As a pastor I found myself in a moment of repentance in relation to all the effort I had gone to, trying to ‘make’ people, indeed my church grow both Spiritually and, let’s just be honest, in size. I’d been stressing over what was really God’s job when all I really needed to do was ensure folks were well planted in ‘good soil’ receiving plenty of nourishment from Scripture, keeping things free of the weeds of toxic conflict and gossip, being watered with encouragement and lastly, positioned well in the sunshine of community.
I’m not sure how I used to picture ‘church’ but now, I just think of my veggie patch, with all the different veggies growing at their own, individual rate by God’s design as they interact with the environment in which they’re planted.
3.Everyone loves homegrown veggies.
When things took off, we realised we could not make enough salads to keep up. Especially celery. Top tip: don’t plant all 8 of them at once like we did. 30kgs of celery is a lot. Or maybe you should plant it all at once and while you’re at it, all the beetroot too. Here’s why: no one ever seems to knock back home grown veggies when you turn up on their front door with extras.
It is a great way to get to know neighbours, bless people going through a tough time and/or just strike up a conversation with folks. Can you imagine what neighbourhoods would be like if everyone had veggie patches growing different things that we ate out of each other’s gardens? It would be a live, visual example of how the gifts of the Spirit are supposed to work!
But everyone seems to have a soft spot for home grown veggies. (And yes, the flavour is different). All of a sudden, we found that for the cost of a few tiny seeds, we could see a bit of the Kingdom growing among our friends and neighbours.