Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Garden, a Daughter, and a Grandson

My daughter and I (with a little help from my grandson Kendrick) prepared a small plot of ground and planted a very small garden (yellow and zucchini squash; bell peppers; broccoli; and strawberries) in my backyard in May. The record-setting heat wave in Oklahoma has significantly adversely affected any harvest; I have only raised one zucchini squash and two yellow squash out of about six squash plants. I saw several small strawberries early on, but no other plants “made” any produce. A book I finished recently, Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen has helped me to understand in a more indepth manner my "performance orientation" and my unhealthy excessive need to be "productive" all the time. I am “driven” to "accomplish" to a very unhealthy degree.

This is the first time since leaving home (I grew up on a small acreage and my dad and maternal grandpa had big gardens when I was growing up) that I have attempted even a small garden and, while the results have been discouraging, the almost daily watering and very little weeding, has caused me to slow down and contemplate my unhealthy tendency to be self-reliant rather than dependent on God. This has been difficult and painful, and has caused me to do some more reflections on growing up with one alcoholic and one workaholic parent. Yet, I have learned so much from both of them, who have themselves overcome much. I am discovering that underneath it all may be a trust issue. One of the scriptures brought to mind is 1 Cor. 3:6 where Paul records, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth" (NASU). In an excerpt from Sermon 85, John Wesley states in relevant part: "We shall then see there is no opposition between these, 'God works; therefore, do we work;' but, on the contrary, the closest connexion; and that in two respects. For, First, God works; therefore you can work. Secondly, God works, therefore you must work.”

My daughter and I observed that the two squash plants that yielded any produce at all were ones that we planted outside the “hot box” in clay soil with no fertilizer and very little top soil where I predicted nothing could grow. She now loves reminding me that God does the impossible! There are some lessons there for sure. I am guilty of too much self-effort and not enough dependence and trust in God. I have much difficulty with Sabbath significantly precisely because I have great difficulty resting and not being what I see as productive.

I have been babysitting my grandson on Wednesdays this summer and while it has been enjoyable, it has exposed the tension with my need to be doing something considered to be “more productive.” I am in the process of redefining the meaning of productive. I cannot think of anything more important than spending time building a healthy relationship with my grandson and “giving up” one day a week during my summer break is not being unproductive in an unbiblical way. In fact, it is life-giving to me and provides a service (much deserved break) to my daughter. The section on Sabbath in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun helped me to understand that “playing with children” can be spiritually nourishing and therefore an acceptable Sabbath practice (42). My grandson’s laugh and showing of affection is good medicine for the soul! I am also a little fearful of realizing the depth of tiredness, emotionally and spiritually, that I feel from years of neglecting a healthy Sabbath practice.

I need the daily watering of the Holy Spirit (John 4:14) and the recognition that ultimately everything positive we accomplish is ultimately traceable to the grace of God and never solely to self-effort. Apart from the enablement or empowerment of divine grace, we can do nothing of eternal significance (John 15:5).

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