Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gardening our Souls, Part 2145

I know what you're thinking.  We have all heard or read about man's fall in the Garden of Eden: this BEAUTIFUL paradise where every beautiful thing grew.  And then, Eve and Adam, lushes that they were, had to go mess it up.  Tragic.  Pitiful.  But it's OUR story.  We were left with a legacy of the garden - and the legacy of sin.

That is, until Christ came along, and went to another garden.  This one was called the Garden of Gethsemane, and here Christ laid His life down to redeem His Bride from sin.  He gave His life that He might pay for our sins, and give us eternal life.  He transformed what we previously associated with a lush set of tragic characters to a mystery of love that we have carried with us for over 2,000 years.  The Garden again became a place of purest beauty and peace, untainted by sin.

Given how much God loved the world (so much so that He sent his ONLY SON to die for us), it seems rather fitting that this garden is the perfect analogy for the human soul.  Gardens are things that we tend to, things that we plant beautiful flowers or delicious fruits and vegetables in.  They require care and nurturing, weeding and pruning, and a lot of attention.  Without attention, they quickly become overrun and underappreciated, and fill with plants that choke and kill all gently blossoming plants.

Christ Himself even used a garden analogy when referring to the human soul.  He said that God's Word would fall sometimes on rocky soil, sometimes on soil where weeds and thorns would grow, and sometimes on good soil.  We all must take care that we have prepared good soil for God's Word to take root and grow strong, and that often involves weeding out other words, other seeds, and other plants that threaten to strangle our fragile virtues.

The other day, as I was praying, I thought of how blackened and dead much of my heart must be due to sin. I lamented this to God, wondering why He would choose such an imperfect vessel to carry out His works and live out His love.  The response I received went back to the garden, where Christ is waiting all along.  God cuts out the bad parts of our hearts, the deadened parts, and works them into the soil of our souls, so that it fertilizes the growth of the new, good plants that are growing.  It is His beautiful way of taking our faults, doubts, sins, and pasts and casting them into the furnace of His love, where all things are made new.  Even the parts of us that are bad foster new life in Christ - when is there ever reason NOT to rejoice?

AND, that's not even the best part - no, far from it!  When we recognize and allow God to cut out the parts of our hearts that are blackened from sin, God can take those parts and use them to enrich the soil of OTHER gardens, as well!  The souls of our friends and family benefit from our pasts, our imperfections, and our struggles.  God truly makes all things new, even when our failings seem to get in the way!  It really is true that, "now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1.  In fact, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39.  Whoah - suddenly our sins don't seem so mountainous that they can block out God's mercy.  Far from it.  Rather, the mountain of manure that is our sin is spread out into our gardens by Christ, who cares for us and tends to our soul like a master gardener, with the utmost care.  The bigger the pile of manure, the more God wants to enrich the soil with it.  (For an example of this kind of super-enrichment, look to St. Augustine).

We are INSEPARABLE from Christ, just as roots stretch toward the ground, and leaves reach up to the sun, and flowers burst from buds.  We need only be sure to care for the plants that God has given us, to nurture the little garden which He watches over, that we might create a little beauty in our corner of the world.  The rest is up to God.

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