God as Gardener

plant growth - LockieCurrie/E+/Getty Images

I despise gardening!

It’s not gardening’s fault, really. It’s mine. I do occasionally try to garden, but every time, it fails miserably.

Usually my foray into gardening begins with the sudden desire to have beautiful flowers adorn my front door. I hurry to the nearest nursery and load up on a few potted plants—the bigger and more audacious the flowers, the better. Then I bring home my lot and spend the next hour or so placing the plants just right around the front door of our house. Each time, my husband just looks at me and shakes his head, to which I respond, “This time, I will keep up with these!”

One day recently, I saw my husband go out the front door for a minute. He returned with a hanging pot full of rotting, moldy flowers. He walked the pot with purpose out the back door as I sighed audibly. “Ugh,” I thought. “He was right. I forgot about the plants again!”

Gardening and me, no matter how hard I try, just don’t mix. So when one of the last entries in the book I was reading spoke about God as Gardener, I might have rolled my eyes at first. I may have even put the book down for a few hours. After all, I was not going to relate to God as Gardener for sure!

But then, as I went about my day, the image of my husband carting that old, moldy plant from the front porch just wouldn’t leave me alone.

After he had gone out the back door, I got up and followed him outside. “What are you doing with that?” I asked.

He pointed to one of our sons standing there eagerly with a plastic cup in his hands. The plastic cup contained a bean plant that he had brought home from school two weeks prior. It had grown so well the cup could no longer contain it.

I watched my husband dump out the old, moldy flowers and help my son replant his treasure carefully in fresh soil. I could almost see the plant stretching its roots and sighing with delight as it received care. Just a couple of weeks ago, this plant had been a tiny sprout. I remembered how excited my son was about his little sprout. “Mom, do you see the green? I’m so proud of this little guy. I can’t wait to see how he grows!”

I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “Good luck,” as I envisioned every rotting, forgotten plant our house has ever seen.

But he surprised me. Every day my son came home and watered the plant. He moved it with care around the house to ensure it had proper light. Every time it grew or sprouted another leaf, he ran through the house carrying the plastic cup high, showing everyone. Oh, how his face lit up with every small millimeter of growth!

Watching my son and husband dig into the soil, I realized that I actually love the image of God as Gardener. After all, my son’s joy at each small millimeter of plant growth is the joy I imagine God has for each millimeter of growth in me. I can almost see God carrying me around God’s Kingdom, holding me high, saying, “Look how far she’s come!”

Surprising myself, I have returned often now to this image of God as Gardener, planting the seeds in me and carefully watering them. I love this image of a God that has so much more patience than I possess. I love this image of a God who never fails to check in on us as we go, who never fails to grace us with all we need to thrive.

As we continue through this spring, I will be holding onto this image of God as Gardener as I try to imagine how I can better tend to the growth both in and around me.

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks so much for this article on God as a gardener, felt strengthened in my spiritual journey. Awesome.
    Keep it up.

  2. Thought-provoking. Thanks Gretchen for this beautiful little narration of gardening. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” – says the Psalmist.

  3. Wow, Gretchen, can I ever identify with your gardening experiences! The beautiful plants for sale outside my grocery store tremble to their roots as I approach, and breathe an almost-audible sigh as I keep going. Gardening is just not my gift. Thank you for the image of God as a Gardener and me as that quivering plant, surviving and thriving under His loving care. God bless.

  4. Gretchen,
    Wonderful story, filled with the radiance of God’s living grace. I too had/have the desire to have beautiful blooming plants but alas raising six children and now accompanying them on their journey through their lives, important relationships, children (4 grand children) well there didn’t/doesn’t seem to have the time available to provide the watering and soil care that help plants grow. Several years ago, I read a great little book which explained the concept of Kaisan which essentially teaches one to take “the smallest of steps” in order to move one towards a goal. In this case, I desired to do three things at once: First, To have each morning a few minutes of peace and joy away from my thoughts of work and daily problem-solving, second. Second, to see – year round -a living plant (yes, one that is constantly watered and receives sunlight. And third, one that allowed me to reflect theCreators presence within me.So, using Kaisan I took a very small vase and placed it in the window in front of our kitchen sink (and quite near our coffee pot.) Spring, summer, fall and winter I took that minute or two to tend whatever cuttings I had gleaned from outside. Eventually that little vase was replaced by a living plant and and that plant was accompanied by a few more which adorn the interior of our home. Mostly this “little” moment has allowed me to fulfill my three desires. each day.

  5. Gretchen: I was born into a family of gardeners – The Great Depression, large families, life in a coal mining town in PA and then World War II made gardening a necessity. I visited my Mom’s mother for a summer when I was six years old. Like your son, I planted a few seeds for green beans. I took care of them…it was my job. Then my mother’s baby brother (11 years her junior) cut the grass and decapitated my bean.plants. That had no impact on my gardening abilities. I am still not a gardener (I once planted 12 tomato plants – my yield was 36 tomatoes) I have switched to perennials, and the yard looks OK,. God IS my Gardener…I have just learned to acknowledge my deficiencies and appreciate the beauty of what God has planted…in ALL areas of growth.

  6. I grew up with everyone saying that my dad had a green thumb. Our yard was beautiful. As an adult looking back I realize that he visited the nursery every weekend, rarely coming home empty-handed. Good gardeners don’t focus on the dead things; they simply seek new life.

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