Although I enjoy gardening, I somehow didn’t manage to get to it for a few weeks as summer faded into autumn this year. By the time my husband and I set aside a day to tidy up, we found, underneath the crunchy blanket of autumn leaves, a soggy mess of rotting decay, where slugs and snails had made a comfortable home and had very good meals of our nice green plants. There were plenty of faded flower heads that needed cutting off too, and, because the land next to our garden is wild and untended, a variety of weeds had crept through and were entangled all around our shrubs growing close to the boundary.
The garden had looked pretty and colourful throughout the summer months, as we’d been regularly tending it, and we were amazed at the mess it had got into after only a few weeks of neglect. As we began clearing up and cutting back, it was as if the plants breathed a sigh of relief that the gardeners were back, disentangling them from the grip of the bindweed, brambles, nettles and slugs, and releasing them into the light again.
What a blessing that, unlike the plants, it’s not ‘hit or miss’ for us. We don’t have to wait and see if we’ve been planted in a garden where the gardener has time for us today, or whether he’s interested, attentive, or even if he cares. Isaiah 58:11 tells us, ‘The Lord will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and He will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden’. In the garden of the Kingdom of God we have the very best Gardener, who’s never neglectful. Yet He doesn’t force His workmanship on us. He gives us a choice. Earlier in Isaiah, Chapter 58, He says it’s only if we choose to set our hearts to live in godliness, that we’ll be like a well-watered garden.
It might be that choking weeds have encroached on your life, or you’re going through a time when it all feels like a soggy decaying mess where the slugs and snails have got in. It might feel like the Gardener’s gone away. Yet sometimes the truth is: we’re the ones who’ve moved away: perhaps not keeping short accounts, looking to other sources for comfort, sinking into self-pity, envy or jealousy, gossiping, or breaking a confidence. A neglected garden, almost imperceptibly, yet very quickly, falls into disrepair, and so do our lives.
But our Gardener is faithful, even when we’re faithless, patiently waiting for us to come to Him in humility. Perhaps today is the day to ask Him, “How have my thoughts and attitudes and behaviour contributed to the mess, Father?” Because of His great love, grace and mercy, He’ll guide you, and do a beautiful work of restoration.
Prayer: Thank You, Father God, that You never leave me or forsake me, even in those times when I’ve gone my own way. There are weeds that have sprung up in my life, Father, because I’ve allowed them to, weeds of … (fill in your own words). I confess them before You now, and ask for Your forgiveness and cleansing. I invite You to please come and tend the garden of my life, to restore and make something beautiful that will give glory to Your precious name. Amen.
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