The Garden of the Soul
We have all seen beautiful gardens, and we have seen the less than beautiful ones as well. If you have a garden or know someone who does, you can testify to the amount of work it takes and the passion needed by the owner in order to make it grow and flourish. Growing seasons range in length and intensity, but also in the types of plants grown. Not everything can live in every climate and not everyone likes the same thing, which is good. There is variety.
I have spent some of this week in a garden. It has been great pleasure to dig the earth and plant and tend my parents’ garden with my father. He is a great gardener and has created a beautiful garden that many come to admire. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. The results can be quite spectacular. (The image for this blog post is from that garden.) I used to frequently visit Christopher Lloyd in East Sussex at his garden Great Dixter. The weekend invitations were always filled with people of the British, Australian and American gardening world. It gave me a much better understanding of that world and the dedication of people to the plants and gardens they created and tended. In his book The Well-Tempered Garden Christopher Lloyd said: “Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.”
Our spiritual lives are often compared to a garden. And it is perhaps one of the most apt comparisons because like a garden we cannot ignore the growth or decline in it. There is either the one or the other. If tended well and with love the garden blooms and can be a great pleasure to the individual and to others around. It can also be a loss and an over grown mess. The one caring for the garden needs to be able to prune and trim, water and encourage to grow in the right direction in order to succeed. We might decry the fact we do not have a professional gardener to help or oversee this work, much like a spiritual director, but each gardener who wants to, can indeed nourish their garden to grow as best they are able, even without the professional help.
Our spiritual lives cannot be taken for granted. We are spiritual creatures of God the Father, and as Christians we come to know, love and serve God with all our being. That means we cannot take for granted our development as Christians. We have to be aware of the need for growth and not permit a slackening which would see decay; or weeds to overwhelm the soul from loss of interest. We need to maintain the greatest care of the soul. Be sure to read good material, watch and listen to what is edifying. It takes time, love and dedication to nourish this garden in the soul. Take time daily, even briefly for the soul. Make it a daily requirement to work on and tend it. The more we do this, the closer to God we become and will be more inclined to imitate Him. Allow the Holy Spirit to breath through your soul, making you more and more like the Saviour.