It’s fall in my backyard. The air is light, the sky clear. The sun’s low rays stretch across garden beds as if slumbering from summer’s work.
In my garden, summer is for labor. Winter brings rest. But like the last light before Sabbath’s night, fall is a time for preparation. Evening is close.
Just before dusk, I come to the garden. In one bed I turn over black, wet soil. In another, I pull up cucumber and broccoli, roots clinging to earth. Feathery asparagus stalks are next. I cut them and add their foliage to the pile, a mound of growth that will go to compost. With pitchfork in hand, I bury them. Their death will not be wasted.
But like the last light before Sabbath’s night, fall is a time for preparation.
Next, I thin out unruly strawberries and cover them with a blanket of golden stubble, tucking them in for a long winter’s nap. Taking scissors and twine, I trim rosemary, mint, and thyme, then bundle them for drying. From the yellowed cilantro I collect clusters of coriander. Their fragrance warms the chilled night air.
My work ends. The beds rest. They are not dead; they only sleep.
Early in spring, silvery peas emerge from fresh earth. They send out tendrils to hook, grab, and hang on, their tight curls elegant and strong. Green beans follow. Their leafy stems, looking for a hold, reach out and catch a pole. Like the running vines of cantaloupe and squash, they intend to find the sun and snag its rays.
Working among these plants, I too am caught—by their madeness, by their beauty and composition. Why is their intricate architecture so captivating? How are such small wonders not scorched by the sun or crushed by hard rain? What makes peppers hot or eggplants purple or blackberries sweet? In my garden, I’m captivated by the symbiosis of function and form, utility and beauty, nourishment and joy. My garden is lively, yes. But it’s also lovely. Must it have been made by love?
Yet this madeness suggests more than design or delight. For in my garden I also see weakness, contingency, and vulnerability. These plants, while incredibly resilient, are not self-sufficient. They wouldn’t survive without my care. Wet ground would rot tomatoes. Weeds would choke carrots. Rabbits would pilfer spinach. Robins would raid raspberries. Vines would have nowhere to climb.
Yet this created weakness is not unbecoming. Instead, I find it strangely beautiful. Because it seems that I was made for the garden even as the garden was made for me. In this design there is dependence. Our shared madeness suggests I too am cultivated and protected.
When I come to my garden—an oasis in this frenzied and fearful world—I find more than weeds to pull and fruits to pick. I find that my small backyard somehow speaks to me of the Creator and his creation. In it I see, as through stained glass, small portraits of heaven and earth, work and rest, waiting and believing, sowing and reaping.
Every year in the garden I witness life and death—and life again. And every season I watch God work in the mundane and the minuscule; my small garden whispers how wonderful he must be in the grand and glorious.
My small garden whispers how wonderful he must be in the grand and glorious.
Perhaps most pleasing of all, my heart is calmed by beauty and grace. I marvel at a God who doesn’t merely meet needs but delights to give joy—because he cultivated those desires in me from the beginning.
If this lovely garden was made for me, then very likely I’ve also been made for it and, I believe, for a garden yet more beautiful. Though this body will one day return to earth, I know it’s not the end. I will awaken again. And that new life must certainly be lovely, for it will be made from love.