Gardening and Jesus are 2 of my favorite topics and I’m glad to share my heart on both.
The Shack, by William P. Young, is a book that some call controversial. I know that the Christian bookstore where I use to live refused to sell it and gave lectures to anyone who asked about it. No matter the feelings about the book, I will say that I was deeply moved by the book and there is a particularly interesting few passages that I would like to share with you. I won’t share any “spoilers,” so if you haven’t read it and plan to, I don’t think I will ruin the book for you. If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you’ll recognize this portion as well. If you don't plan to read the book, I hope you at least glean from these portions what God desires for you to glean.
p. 128 the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. “Mack concentrated instead on staying to the walkway. As he rounded the trees, he saw for the first time a magnificent garden and orchard somehow contained within a plot of land hardly larger than an acre. For whatever reason, Mack had expected a perfectly manicured and ordered English garden. This was not that!
It was chaos in color. His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty. Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetables and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen. It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.
p. 133 3rd paragraph. “… Sarayu thrust a hand shovel at Mack, picking up the rake. ‘To prepare this ground we must dig up the roots of all the wonderful growth that was here. It is hard work, but well worth it. If the roots are not here, then they cannot do what comes naturally and harm the seed we will plant.’”
p. 138 3rd and 4th paragraph. “…Mackenzie … this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive – a perfect fractal. … He looked again at their garden – his garden – and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time.”
Keep these thoughts in mind as I continue.
Another book that is “controversial” in some Christian circles is Song of Solomon or Song of Songs. My translation of the title … ”The Best Song Ever.” Regardless of what people think of this book, it is still included in the whole of the Word. There are many parts of the Bible that are less fun to read like Numbers, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel. Just because a part of the Bible is “boring” or difficult to understand, it is not irrelevant. God gave us the whole thing, so we need all of it.
There are several thoughts on the book of Songs.
1. Literal – between a man (possibly King Solomon) and his beloved.
2. Figurative – between God and Israel
3. Figurative – between Christ and the church.
There may be more, but for tonight, I’m using the 3rd thought pattern.
Consider these texts as if they were from Jesus to us, His bride, the church. He is completely enamored and delighted in us. It is His divine romance. When reading Song of Songs, which actually can be done in about 15 minutes, one can see a tapestry of love woven in the words between Bride and Bridegroom. Here are a few phrases from the groom to his beloved one.
Song 4:12 “You are a garden locked up, my sister, by bride, you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”
She replies in vs 15-16,
“You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming from Lebanon. Awake north wind, and come south wind! Blow on my garden that its fragrance my spread abroad. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.”
The garden is mentioned again in 5:1, 6:2 and 8:13. No matter how we interpret these scriptures, we belong to Him. You find references throughout scripture about we being “His people,” and He is “our God.” Since we’ve been talking about gardens tonight, I’m bringing us to this place to give a different perspective on our relationship with Him.
A “Locked Garden,” to me is one that can only be enjoyed by the owner of the key. When I go into my garden, I am filled with pleasure knowing that the place I’m visiting is my own special place. Mine is a vegetable garden, some may have a flower garden, some may have a rock garden, but I know that my garden is a special place. If I had my own locked garden, my family may never find me. I would be there every time I could get away. It would be a place I longed to be even when I couldn’t get to it.
Jesus is all present and all-knowing God so He can get into the garden as He wants, but He also is tender and patient and often waits for an invitation before He accesses the garden of me. I invite Him, but limit what I offer Him access to.
If the idea of being a locked garden unto the Lord seems a stretch to you, try this one out.
I Cor 3:5-9 5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
That has a hint of “garden” in it, doesn’t it? Then Paul goes on to say:
I Cor 3:16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
It seems to me that being a temple of the Holy Spirit is easier to grasp. Maybe that is because it’s been taught to me since childhood.
I first shared about the garden of Mack from The Shack – a wonderful mess. God enjoys the garden of me no matter if it is chaos or if it is beautiful. I think He deserves more than my chaos.
When we view ourselves as a temple or a garden we may rather be a garden because the temple must be a holy place. It must be sacred, undefiled. A garden has weeds and bugs and wildflowers and fruit/veggies and fragrance and … the point is though, we are both. We are His holy temple and His own garden. We were made both for His pleasure and for His dwelling.
We need to be kept up and ready for the wedding day. As a bride, we get our nails done, we shave our legs – and not just below the knees. We whiten our teeth, we shop for the beautiful attire of a beautiful bride. Should we do less for our heavenly bridegroom? Not in the physical, obviously, but in Spirit?
I’m celebrating 16 years with my groom tomorrow. I still put on make-up and get fancy for him because I love him. I don’t want to come before him as an unkempt garden. I want him to enjoy his time with me – alone!
As a gardener, how do I prevent an unkempt garden? I tend it EVERY DAY!
1. I water it at least every day
2. I fertilize it
3. I pull weeds
4. I prune plants
5. I harvest fruit when it is ripe.
The whole point of my vegetable garden is fruit (veggies). The crops in my garden are evidence of the time I spend in it.
The fruit of my life is the evidence of the time I spend with my Bridegroom tending the garden of me. Yes, He loves it even when it is chaos like Mack’s, but I want to give him more. I want the evidence of more. The fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How do these fruits develop and grow?
1. Water at least every day. – Read the Word at least every day
2. Fertilize – Find deeper revelation of the Word. Study it, ask for His revelation, find someone to teach you. Surround yourself with those who will help you grow!
3. Pull weeds – get rid of sin. Ask Him to search you and show you. Get rid of hidden sin that is robbing your fruit’s nourishment.
4. Prune – this takes help. Thin out the things that take your attention. My tomato vines were ripening golf-ball sized fruit. I pruned the vines that even had fruit on them. I hate doing that! Guess what? The next fruit was baseball-sized before it ripened. Not everything is bad, but not everything is beneficial. I Cor 10:23 “ I have a right to do anything,” you say, - but not everything is beneficial. “I have a right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive.”
5. Harvest the fruit when it is ripe. It is not good to just have fruit, it must be used for its intended purpose. Otherwise the fruit will ROT on the vine and the vine will STOP producing fruit. Do you expect to hear someone say, “I have patience, but I’ve waited long enough!” Put fruit to its purposeful use.
II Corinthians 6:16-7:1 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty.”
1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
I hope the next time you are in a garden or even eating fresh fruits or veggies, you will remember what you are to Him – a place to delight and a place to dwell. He will help you become a beautifully maintained garden that produces wonderfully the fruit of His Spirit. The best part is that you get to enjoy Him enjoying you.