Decent weather is finally here, so it’s time to get out our gardening tools and become growers again. But our gardens aren’t the only things that need tending. There are other parts of our lives that need us to become growers again, too.
Your name is Mud
A few weeks ago I gave a talk about gardening. It was based on a lecture Leonard Sweet gave when he was in town earlier this year, describing the interaction between God and humankind in Genesis 2.
Taking a deep dive into the text, Sweet conjured up an image of God sitting in the dirt, making mud pies. Not coincidentally, the word for humankind in the passage [adam] shares the same root as the Hebrew word that is used for dirt or ground [adamah].
So, your name is “mud.” Literally.
Now here’s why any of this matters: In our first encounter with God, we find him working the soil and bringing forth life (us). From day one, you and I and all of humankind have been tied to the process of growing things from the earth. In other words, the concept of becoming growers again is in our spiritual DNA.
In the Genesis passage, we see the birth of the creative process and it’s happening through the union of matter [dirt] and Spirit [God-breathed]. It’s literally at the intersection of heaven and earth.
Why don’t we grow and create things anymore?
You probably know what happens next in the Genesis story. God places Adam and Eve in the garden and tells them to “till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:25). For Sweet, this means that we have been called to do two things: Conceive things (till) and conserve things (keep).
But have you noticed that we don’t conceive and conserve nearly as many things as we used to? Here’s what we do instead:
- Criticize: From offhand remarks to tearing down other people and their work on social media, we’ve raised criticism to an art form. Following the example of those who are supposed to lead us, we feel empowered by sarcasm and vitriol.
- Consume: We live in the most materialistic society in the history of the planet. We measure success based on the things we accumulate. The American dream isn’t self-sufficiency and service — it’s filling our garages and bank accounts to overflowing. It’s consumption run amok.
- Capitalize: We don’t nurture things, we capitalize on opportunities for our own gain. We even do it with relationships when we choose our friends based on what they can do for us.
We weren’t created to do any of these things. From the very moment humankind came into existence, we were created to be growers. God placed us in the garden to conceive and conserve — to create, grow, cultivate and nurture things.
Here’s how we become growers again
We’ve been designed to bring forth new things, to be creative. Ever felt the urge to write/paint/sing/dance/etc.? That’s your creative impulse sending a reminder that you were created for life beyond the cubicle.
It’s time to become growers again and there are a lot of ways we can make that happen in our lives.
In our relationships — Relationships are the fabric of our lives. It’s important to grow and tend your relationships with family and friends, investing your time, talent and energy in the people around you. Instead of criticizing them, go out of your way to find opportunities to encourage them and build them up.
In your communities — The world is full of vacant lots — people and places that have been abandoned, ignored and neglected. As growers and gardeners, it’s up to you and me to seek out “vacant lots” and partner with God to bring them back to life. If you don’t know where to begin, start by volunteering and working alongside people who are active in the local community.
In your own life — Life is hard. Every day brings a new set of challenges. We want to be growers again, but what happens when we’re the barren ground in need of a gardener? Remember that none of us have arrived. We’re all works in progress. Give God the best of yourself (your time, your energy, your passion) and God will do the rest, turning the dry places in your soul into a garden full of life.