Friday, June 17, 2016

A Tale of Two Gardeners

Let’s suppose you need a gardener.

Actually, let’s not suppose at all. You do need a gardener. The shed is full of dead electric mowers. No one knows what killed them. They just stopped working. The last mower you purchased was not electric. It was a push-along-cylinder mower. Perhaps it brought back old memories of childhood and long summer days, short grass and a lilac bush in the corner of the garden – leaning at a slight angle where your older sister backed into it one driving lesson.

This mower, the push-along  one, is also dead now. You’ve tinkered with a spanner and fed it oil in its deep recesses – but it’s dead. No one knows exactly what killed it.  It just stopped working.

So, you decide not to buy another mower. It would be cruel to the mower to assign it an early death, just like the others and you are probably not as young as you were. Kneeling down is possible.  Getting back up again, less so.

The mower might be dead but the grass isn’t. It grows. A balance of spring to summer sun, lots of rain and no working mower conspire.  Ankle high.  Knee high.  Thigh high.  The grass grows.

The neighbours frown. You wish you had the courage to invite them to cut your grass for you, and weed the borders while they are at it, if they have such strong objections. You actually think your neighbour did have strong objections to living next door to your wilderness. You think they moved house in the middle of the night. You were greeted the other day by a stranger across the wall introducing herself.

Hiring a gardener is the answer.  There’s a list in the local paper. So you choose one. He doesn’t call back.  You choose another and he or she doesn’t call back. The man that lives around the corner is a gardener. He says he will call round about six. But he doesn’t.

The grass grows – waist high? Not quite.

You get lucky.  The next gardener you phone comes around and gives an estimate. It’s a bit steep – but the grass is high and you think you saw a lion, a tiger and a bear the other night. You agree to the price and tick off on your fingers exactly what is required. He’s not allowed to touch the bluebells and he’s not allowed to spray pesticides anywhere – think about the bees!

You look at the finished garden. Maybe you weren’t lucky at all.  Maybe the man could come to do it because he did such a bad job on other people’s gardens that he was never invited back. You have maybe had a bad hair- cut once upon a time and thought about wearing a paper bag over your head for a while. Paper bags don’t come lawn sized. It’s not good. There are no trim edges and the thistles at the back have been left to threaten the rhubarb. The conifers have been trimmed but my new neighbour mumbles as she sweeps up the mess he leaves on her side of the wall. No, it’s not good. You take a pair of scissors to his business card.

Meanwhile back around the corner, where the other gardener lives with his mother, he mows her lawn, trims the edges and weeds her borders.  She doesn’t have conifers to trim but you imagine he would to a good job and tidy up afterwards. He takes his time. He takes a few days. He pours love onto every blade of grass. He practically serenades the brown soil of the borders.  The garden sighs with happiness.

Now.  A quick change of direction. Suppose you want to be a gardener. Yes, there is a definite tinge of green on the fingers. So, you apprentice yourself out to one of our two gardeners.

Who do you choose?  Go on.  It’s not a trick question. If you are looking for a quick buck or a hundred and the fingers are not that green at all – maybe you will go with gardener number 1.  He is only going to teach you bad habits and he will never nurture your love of grass and ground and grubby worms.

No, you will go with the gardener around the corner. You have watched him work and you have seen the results. The garden loves him and gazes at him with adoration.

Another quick change of direction. Suppose you want to be a Christian. You don’t exactly apprentice yourself out.  Even you know it doesn’t work that way.  But you do have a good look at a couple of Christians.  Maybe there’s one that lives just around the corner. You want to know if being a Christian works! Do these people seem to have the inside track on troubles? Do they know something you don’t know? Are they happy? So you look at their lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  God doesn’t wrap his people in cotton wool or clean them up with antiseptic wipes. There is no vaccine against life. But how they deal with life – that tells you whether faith works or not.

Christians! No one is watching in anticipation and glee for you to fall. They are watching with baited breath for you to keep standing.  Only then will they begin to believe that faith in God works.

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