If I knocked on your front door to ask if I could sit on the bench in your garden would you let me?
It is not so much on the way into work that I notice the bench, but on the way home it looks so inviting. The garden in question runs alongside the golf course. All that separates the bench from one of the holes is a wire fence over grown with some climbing variety of rose, a fast slowing burn and, on each side of the burn knee high nettles! The bench doesn’t have a back to it and is painted green.
It is not so much the bench that attracts me, but the even lawn and the border of brightly coloured flowers. The time that I am walking past is just at that moment when I am far enough on the way home to feel tired after a day on my feet. The garden is bathed in tranquillity and I would just like to soak a bit of it up.
As I was looking lovingly at the bench, and eyeing up the doorbell on the front door, it came to me that the garden didn’t just happen by accident. The owner of the property didn’t just wake up one morning and there it was all in place – the bench, the grass and the flowers. It was planned and it was planted. Borders were dug over, seeds scattered and watered and nurtured. It didn’t just happen. A lot of work went into producing the tranquillity!
You have to plant a flower in a garden to get a flower to grow – it doesn’t just happen. (Alhtough I once had a most exotic looking mushroom that grew entirely of it's own accord, and according to the book of mushroom I looked at later, that particular mushroom tends to favour "rubbish tip" conditions!) You have to build a bench and place it in the garden – it doesn’t just appear. And once it is planted, it takes time and effort to maintain. Ignore it for long enough and everything gets overgrown as it is as it was in the beginning.
What is true for the garden – the whole process of digging the soil, removing the reeds, planting flowers, watering and maintaining – is true of my spiritual life. It is no use looking on the vibrant life of another Christian and longing to “sit in the bench” and soak up his or her tranquillity. If I have the annoying weeds of bad habits and critical attitudes – I have only myself to blame. If I want to see patience and gentleness and kindness – I have to plant them and nurture them.
Joe and I are about to do the whole garden thing – last year we had someone build up a patio. This year we are brining in someone to cut back the tree. We bring in the experts to do the things that we are not able to do. Who better that the Holy Spirit to bring in to do a bit of the spiritual pruning?