Imagine landing a job tending the world’s most famous garden. The portfolio of authority includes a free hand to move, swap, and shift any plant to add personal flavor to the displays. And did I mention this garden is exempt from the blight of weeds and harmful pests? Are you ready to give up your day job and apply? What we’ve described is the place where Adam, the first man, began his life.
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.Genesis 2:15
Adam held two responsibilities according to the verse. Bible translations use various terms but the idea carries through with each set.
- Work and keep (ESV)
- Dress and keep (KJV)
- Cultivate and keep (NASB)
- Tend and watch over (NLT)
- Work and take care (NIV)
- Work the ground and keep it in order (MSG)
Adam had freedom and privilege to cultivate and keep as he saw best. And since he was a gardener we know he adjusted God’s original display. Gardeners do that. Have you ever met a gardener who could not improve or try to improve on someone else’s arrangement?
I’m speculating here but imagine God dropping by for a stroll a few years after Adam took the helm.
“Uh, Adam, where are the roses?”
“Well, I gathered the white ones in a bunch and lined the border with the pink ones. And I moved the rest along the path leading to the vegetable garden. Doesn’t that improve the statement they make?”
And I can imagine that God smiled, delighted that Adam understood his gardening freedom. A gardener who cultivates and keeps finds joy in the resulting growth and determines to maximize the garden’s presentation and harvest. That is the nature of gardening. No one sets out to raise so-so plants.
But Adam and his wife, Eve, wanted more. They grew unsatisfied with their perfect life in a perfect environment…once the serpent hinted about other worlds to explore. Dissatisfaction drove their horrible choice. We know their sad saga, and our denouncement of their mistake comes easily. But what about us and the garden where we cultivate and keep? Am I satisfied with the spot I’ve been assigned?
Think about your space and garden experiences in the last twelve months.
- Did I complain about too much shade or too much sun?
- Did feelings of being overlooked arise when the rain stopped, and I wrestled with hoses and watering cans in the hot sun?
- What was my reaction when the rascally rabbit consumed an entire row of beans in one night? (I was not a happy camper!)
- Did any of my hoped-for plantings disappoint?
- How many times did I tell myself things might be better next season?
Gardening, especially under the curses Adam and Eve brought down upon us, comes with a heaping share of the blahs from time to time. Some timid souls quit as evidenced by the weed-covered patches where beauty once blossomed. Others decide the work of cultivating and keeping simply requires too much time. Then there are the diehards, like me, and I hope like you, too. We see each season as a new challenge, each failure as a learning opportunity, and each success as cause for rejoicing.
Can you list several things about your garden that triggered thanksgiving in the past twelve months? Here are a few of mine:
1. After 30+ years of composting and amending my once hard-pan clay soil now has an abundance of earthworms and a healthy dirt color. Digging has become a joy rather than a chore.
2. I have a reliable water supply close to the plantings. Part of it comes from rain barrels and the remainder from our municipal water service. I recall childhood summers when I toted water in buckets from the creek seventy-five yards away for Mom’s half-runner green bean plants. That task required many trips through tall weeds to and from the creek bank.
3. I’ve found a host of plants that thrive in the mostly shade back gardens. My wife and I marveled this morning at the rhododendron we moved there. At eight feet tall and wide that rascal is thriving and covered with buds in preparation for its stunning appearance later this spring.
4. No matter which window I peer out I see some aspect of the garden. Winter is its own season, and maybe I have to look harder, but the garden thing is happening even in the colder temps.
5. Digging, pruning, and tending contribute positively to my health. One of my weekly errands takes me past the homes of people whose living arrangements offer little more garden potential than a pot of dirt on the corner of a patio, and I’m convicted of any complaints about needing more space. I stop to thank God for the stewardship He has given to me to cultivate and keep.
Purpose and perspective make all the difference in the garden.