It’s my day off today which means I have slept in, my husband has taken the kids to school and I have finally surfaced at 11am, and breakfasting with a cup of tea and some chocolate (because I can, ok?), I find myself looking out the window onto the garden we’ve spent many hours working on this weekend.
We love our Curacy house, it is an absolute blessing, and far beyond what we had hoped for. But when we moved in, it’s fair to say the garden was a tad neglected. A lovely neighbour from the church had been round and moved the lawn but aside from that it was a bit of a jungle. There was a rotting shed in the corner, a strange sort of fenced off inner sanctum, which we later discovered was the result of a previous tenant owning a lot of cats, (random, yes) and very overgrown. Thankfully we like a gardening challenge and over the last year (aided a lot by my parents) we’ve started to transform this mess into something more loved.
When you preach regularly you tend to view life through the lens of ‘well, that would make a good sermon illustration’ and there are so many in this garden but I think my favourite here was the gift of an apple tree.
This was one side of the garden when we moved in.
You can just about see that those grey posts are holding back a chicken wire fence and what looks like a large amount of ivy, in fact I’d call it an ivy tree it was that bad, as well as some other overgrown bushes. On closer inspection we found that behind this fence was another 4 foot of garden, with the fence going round 2 sides of the garden. It was impossible to work out what was behind it or to weed or plant anything as you just couldn’t access it. So one swift phone call to the diocesan housing department and they agreed we could take it out, but on the strict understanding that they weren’t paying for it!
So we all got to work.
And work it was, the fence posts were about 4 foot into the ground in a large amount of concrete and it took an entire day to get the first post out. But when we did, we were amazed to find a tree behind it.Not only that, an apple tree, with apples growing on it. You can just about see them poking through the ivy here:
A lot of cutting back followed and the first of many many trips to the tip before the tree and some wonderful plants that had been hidden, emerged from the chaos, including well established rosemary and sage plants. Suddenly we found that the overgrown mess we thought we had, actually contained both the beautiful and the sustaining.
The garden is still very definitely a work in progress and further cutting back halted whilst the birds nest, but here is the tree now, and the herb bed that we expanded in front of it.
I love the image this gives of the stuff that is hidden in the mess of our lives. Some of us are pretty messed up and then God, the ultimate gardener, starts to prune away and pull out our weeds. It’s tough going sometimes, hard work and painful. Bits of roots get left behind and start to regrow and need to be pulled up again, but this time it’s less painful, until there is nothing left of that weed.
And underneath it all is something worthwhile, something beautiful, something that with a bit of nurturing can grow and flourish.
And into that we can plant new things, useful things, things that bring glory to God, things that can give life, and sustain us.
Just like me, our garden is still a work in progress, sometimes it’s raining and cold and I don’t want to go near it, other times it’s easy, the sun is thing and I can’t wait to get out there, and sometimes it’s just darn hard work.
I’ve recently found myself with my morning cuppa, staring out the window and looking at the fruits of our labour, the beauty in the garden and reflecting on it. I like to think that’s what God does as he looks at us – sees the beauty, recognises the hard work that has gone into us, and takes pleasure in just admiring us.