Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the Death of My Tomato Plants (chop wood, carry water)

I planted them less than three weeks ago and it looks like they won't make it. It was foolish to try to use an area which receives such little sun to try to grow tomatoes, but it was the only spot available. Now, their leaves which were green when planted are beginning to whither and droop. I couldn't have been more faithful in my watering and care for them, I just wish there was more I could have done.

Gardening is therapeutic, but risky. There's no guarantee of growth in the real world. Picking up tomatoes year-round at the grocery store robs you of the knowledge, the understanding, of how those tomatoes came to be there.

Useless disciplines and rituals are useful. Getting up everyday, watering the garden, and turning the soil is useful to my soul. Do I need these plants to grow? No, I live in America and have access to strawberries and tomatoes whenever I want. Do I need to work the garden? Yes.

Lent is a season of self-denial. We practice deprivation in hopes of a closer relationship with God and a closer understanding of Christ's sacrifice for us. We don't do this because God asked us to--He didn't. Hebrews 7 says the law of works-righteousness is useless for bringing about perfection. With that in mind, it would seem weird to practice "useless" rituals and follow "useless" self-imposed rules in order to get close to a God who set us free from laws and rituals.

You don't buy someone a gift because they asked for it. That's not love. A man doesn't buy a woman a ring because she demands a ring, that's an unhealthy relationship. However, a man will buy a woman a ring because he loves her and because she hasn't asked for it. GK Chesterton says it better:
Men will ask what selfish sort of woman it must have been who ruthlessly exacted tribute in the form of flowers, or what an avaricious creature she can have been to demand solid gold in the form of a ring; just as they ask what cruel kind of God can have demanded sacrifice and self denial. They will have lost the clue to all that lovers have meant by love; and will not understand that it was because the thing was not demanded that it was done.
The Master Himself said those who have been forgiven little love little (Luke 7:47) and I've been forgiven a whole heap. It's the one who knows he can't repay his debt who forever is paying it. These disciplines, including gardening, are roads to enlightenment. The mundane, when done repeatedly, has the mark of God on it.
Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
This Zen proverb is truth. The mundane tasks are roads to enlightenment for the enlightened. If you see God in every tomato plant, planting them brings enlightenment. If you find God in a walk outside, each step--right then left--brings enlightenment. To live is Christ. Life is in Christ. Look for Him in your morning commute, in your workout, in your meals, and you'll find Him. Eventually, you will sound to your friends like you're singing the old Christmas song, "Do you see what I see?" as you experience the reality which is waiting to be revealed to you, a reality of two worlds collided in one beautiful event. A daily Easter. 

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About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.