My backyard garden and flowers were beautiful this year. I say this not to boast or brag, but rather more as a statement of fact. My garden consisted of one beefsteak tomato plant that had grown to nearly 4 feet in height and perhaps 3 feet around; one green pepper plant which, though not as tall or round as the tomato plant, did give me the first fruits of the season; an eggplant-plant, which was a mix of deep greenish-purple leaves and beautiful purplish-white flowers; and one zucchini plant that was so tall and had huge elephant-like ears that I dubbed it “Audrey” after the man-eating plant in the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Two rose bushes (one yellow, the other orange) planted on the east side of my house were doing the best they have done in years, as were the deep red and purple roses, and myriad of potted plant set in and around my back patio. Even the hydrangeas were flourishing better than they had since I planted them more than 10 years ago. My backyard was lush and green, healthy, alive and beautiful.
Beautiful that is, until the afternoon of August 14, when a hellish thunderstorm of Biblical proportions pelted my neighborhood with fierce rain and pebble-sized hail. The storm lasted a good 45 minutes, causing rather significant street flooding. The hail that didn’t wash away, looked like snow piled on the ground, in my garden, as well as all the pots that were once awash with tiny pink and yellow flowers.
Needless to say, my once thriving, beautiful plants, were shredded. There remained nary a leaf on my tomato plant, and the tomatoes that hung from the vines were visibly battered and bruised. The same held true for my eggplant-plant. My dear “Audrey” – the great and fruitful zucchini plant - looked as if someone took a weed-wacker to her. The only plant spared was the green pepper plant, as it was mostly sheltered by the tomato plant’s stalks and leaves.
My roses and hydrangeas were shredded of leaf and bloom; and what remained of my potted plants were soon freezer burned by the icy coldness of the hail that now covered them. What was once alive and thriving, was now shredded, torn, and either dead or barely hanging on.
Admittedly, the thought occurred to me to let the plants go for the rest of the summer – forego watering and tending to them until they were ready to be pulled and composted. “If God wants them to survive, God will find a way for them to survive,” I had thought. Little did I know of God’s plans for these plants.
Out of shear habit alone, I resumed my morning watering schedule – all the while thinking, “Why I am doing this? These plants are done.” I pulled weeds that somehow and in some way survived the storm when my beautiful plants did not. I harvested what I could and pruned that which was the worst of the damage.
Over time, I began to see life returning to my garden. Small leaves began to grow in once damaged areas. Blooms returned to my eggplant and Audrey. My tomatoes, which never did leaf, began to ripen to a beautiful deep red.
It started slow, little by little; and it wasn’t until this morning that I truly was made fully aware. Deep greens replaced the frost burnt color of rust on my potted plants. Tiny flowers in full bloom. My yellow rose a sunburst of roses (I believe I counted 50 on there this morning), and the deep red roses shown in full technicolor. “Audrey” looked as lush and alive as she did before the storm, and my eggplant-plant and green pepper plant had doubled in their size. Resurrection had come to my garden – and I was its witness.
We rarely talk of resurrection outside of Easter season, when the first blooms of Spring make themselves known. Never can I ever remember talking about resurrection post Autumnal Equinox – when the leaves begin to change, the nights become cool, and the shades of darkness come earlier and earlier. And yet, there it was. Resurrection. Occurring right-in-front-of-me. Glorious and grace-filled resurrection. All it took was a little tending to – a little watering and attention – and God’s own grace to bring these once dead plants back to life.
The same is true for each of us. How often have the lush and full and thriving gardens that are our own lives been devastated by the storms of chance and circumstance? How often do we find ourselves in the darkness of the tomb – feeling isolated, without hope, and alone without any clue or idea of what to do next or how to get out.
This is the time to tend the garden - give it nourishment – to prune that which needs pruning – to pull the weeds that need pulling – to give the garden what it needs to heal and grow once more.
The Episcopal Church has given us a way to tend the garden of our lives - it is called “The Way of Love” – a set of seven practices designed to help us develop and follow a Jesus-Centered rule of life. There you are invited to (1) Turn – make the decision to turn and follow Jesus; (2) Learn – spend time reading and reflecting on the Scriptures – particularly those focused on the life of Jesus; (3) Praying – make time to dwell intentionally and daily with God; (4) Worship – make all attempts to gather in community to give thanks and praise God; (5) Blessing – share your faith and selflessly give and serve others; (6) Go – cross boundaries, listen attentively, and live like Jesus; and (7) Rest – receive God’s gift of grace and peace.
Ignore the thoughts that say “What are you doing this for?” “Why am I bothering with this?” “Nothing is happening!” Stay true to your task and tend the garden. And, as you engage in these practices, take time to remember that God is with you at every moment – walking and tending your garden with you – waiting to escort you from the tomb back out into the light of life – back to resurrection. Resurrection will come. All it takes is a little tending, a little nourishment, and God. Amen.