We’ve been talking about it for a number of years. We took a first step last year: we planted some peppers, tomatoes, beans and herbs in pots on our deck. Since last year went well, we decided to take the plunge this year and plant a garden in our backyard.
Our biggest concern is the soil in our yard. It’s all clay and rocks, which is obviously not conducive to a successful garden. Therefore, we decided that if we are going to do this, we will need to do a raised bed. With the help of a friend, we came up with a plan, purchased the materials and set to work. Work being the optimum word.
Our suspicions were quickly confirmed that even putting in a raised bed is hard work. We cleared out an 8×12 patch of grass, removing a layer of rock and clay in the process. Then we put together the 4×8 kit of boards that would form the garden. Actually, that was the easiest part. Next came the dirt. A friend had graciously delivered some top soil for us. It was good soil but it had quite a few rocks in it. We came up with a plan to sift the dirt from the rocks, which took time, but was well worth it. We mixed the sifted dirt with nutrients and began hauling it to the garden box. With the help of our children, we were able to section off areas of the garden and put the plants into the soil.
Our final dilemma was coming up with a plan to keep the local animal population from eating what we planted. Seeing an idea in a book, the boys and I set to the task of building a chicken wire cover. Side note: it looked a lot easier in the book! It looks a little strange, but it works. It’s definitely a matter of function over fashion.
Now comes the fun part. Yes, we still need to water and weed, but even after a couple of weeks, we are already seeing green shoots coming up through the soil. It’s fascinating and thrilling to have a hand in creating, even when creating involves hard work. Actually, I wonder if the joy of creating is even greater when it has involved hard work.
This project has reminded me of God’s design for his children and, specifically, elements of what it means that God created his children to flourish.
Creating is part of what it means to bear the image of God. Eugene Peterson writes: “The first thing we learn about God is that God works. God goes to work making the world and all that is in it and then invites us into his work, giving us work to do that is commensurate with his work.” Jesus declares in John 5:17, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”
The work of creating is not the result of sin and the curse; creating is a gift of God. When God puts Adam and Eve in the Garden, it is finished but it is not perfect. It still needs to be tended and nourished. Richard Middleton says, “…when God completes the creative process, it is not ‘perfect’ in the sense that it cannot be made better. That is precisely the human task.” Adam and Eve work—create—because this is what God does. He is a God who creates and those who bear his image create. Seeing our work bear fruit is one of the great joys of life, which is why I think that we will continue the work of creating in the new heaven and new earth. The difference between then and now is that now the ground fights our work; then, as in the Garden of Eden, the ground will be receptive to our work.
Andy Crouch notes that “Without the task of gardening—cultivating, tending, ruling and creating using the bountiful raw material of nature—the woman and man would have had nothing to do, nothing to be.” And Middleton adds, “though the garden provides food for Adam and Eve, paradoxically, the garden itself needs humans…Not only are humans made from the ground (v. 7), but also they are made for the ground.”
Work isn’t bad. Heaven isn’t release from work; it’s release from the twisted views of work, it’s release from the great struggle of work. Work brings fulfillment, joy and nourishment. The word work carries negative connotations for many people, so perhaps create is better. But working, creating is good and fulfilling—accomplishing a task, creating something, repairing something that is broken, adding to the value of someone’s life and our world. In many ways, this is the nature of God’s eternal kingdom.
So, let me encourage you to see your work as God does—not something that defines us or is the source of value for us—but as a gift that leads to flourishing—ours, others’ and the kingdom’s.