I am no gardener. Whether it’s because I lack the skill, the bandwidth, or the desire, I just can’t seem to care enough to tend to the earth around me with much beyond a hearty fern or a couple bails of pine straw. But I find it beautiful. I am enamored by my best’s friend’s knack for growing vegetables in abundance and moonflowers that audaciously bloom when the sun goes down. I am drawn to my mother’s daily rhythms in her garden as she sees how things could be better, more beautiful, with a little pruning or transplanting. Despite myself, I am drawn to the garden. And I am beginning to wonder if the elusive “green thumb” isn’t actually what’s required for a flourishing garden.
Maybe what we really mean when we say someone has a green thumb is that they possess a particular kind of humility. Think about it: the people with flourishing yards (unless they have sourced that out to some lawncare business) are not genetically predisposed to be better at it than others. They are people willing to slow down, put their hands in the dirt, and tend to the earth on the earth’s terms – surrendering to it’s limitations which, when honored, bear fruit. The garden requires humility.
When we were created from the earth, and breath placed in our lungs, God positioned us in a garden. There was day and night and walking and talking and eating and tending and joy in the garden. There was not a care in the world as the mind had yet to bend towards worry. There was a humility in that garden that bore the fruit of life as it should be. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve railed against their limitations that darkness entered in. When God forbade them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there’s a part of me that thought the warning would end differently. That the tree would be a more obviously dangerous tree. Do not eat from the tree of murder and war. Or do not eat from the tree of lust and power. That I could make sense of.
But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Then I remember that a garden requires humility. It requires us to embrace our limits and call them good. It wasn’t the knowledge that derailed that first man and first woman but the belief that they could know more and in their knowing no longer need their God. Adam and Eve and me and you inherited many of God’s good traits when He fashioned us in His image, but limitlessness was not one of them. We did not and do not have the fortitude to handle the knowledge that would become available to us once we broke trust with God. We became savvy but far from the Father. We became good at managing life and its inevitable disappointments with all manner of ingenuity. Humility was edged out while the fruit withered on the vine.
Flash forward a couple thousand years to a different garden, a different tree, but in many ways the same premise. Jesus prays, face in the dirt, in the Garden of Gethsemane. God is not forbidding him from the fruit of a tree but is asking Him to trust Him to take Him through utter darkness. Jesus scans the horizon for another way and ultimately settles into a surrender that would change everything, for everyone, for forever: “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Indeed, the garden required humility. And now, if I have eyes to see it, I find the invitation back to the garden in every area of my life. A sore back invites me to tend to my limited body. A wide yawn invites me to go to bed earlier than my mind wants to. An anxious thought invites me to look honestly at my fears. A twinge of shame asks me to confess to a trusted friend. And a restless soul invites me to walk with my God in the cool of the evening. And all of this on repeat. It’s not advanced. It’s anything but savvy. And is never allows me to arrive. But it does bear fruit the fruit of life as it should be.
Kristin Leathers began work as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in 2008 and became a member of Barnabas Triad in 2019. In addition, she has worked for Young Life for 14 years. She earned her MA in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degree from Meredith College. Kristin has been married for 17 years to her husband, Eric, and together they have two children. Kristin enjoys being with her friends, playing games, exercising, and all things related to home design. She is proud of her family, her work, and to be rounding out her third time through all seasons of Downton Abbey.
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