Have you ever planted a garden? I have not! But I remember watching my grandmother turn a corner of our yard into a small vegetable garden.
One of the first things she had to do was get rid of what was already growing there–in this case grass (much to the chagrin of my father). I watched her mark out a space and begin to transform this once lush patch of grass into what looked like a barren wasteland. She turned up the soil. Dug up roots and rocks and left nothing but a bare spot in the corner of our yard.
But it didn’t stay that way for long. Soon we had a beautiful vegetable garden with the best-tasting green beans and tomatoes growing. It was amazing to see the transformation. But it all started with what looked like destruction, at the time.
Sometimes, I feel like that little vegetable garden is my life. God decided to take my life, which looked fine but wasn’t really functioning beyond aesthetics, and turn it into something fruitful. But sometimes the process feels devastating. Like that patch of dirt my grandmother was turning into a garden, there are roots and rocks that need to be dug up in my life in order for fruitfulness to take place. There are roots of bitterness, jealousy, and selfishness. Each one needs to be dug up and rooted out. There are rocks of hardheartedness and disobedience that need to be tossed away.
I like to think that I’ve accomplished a lot of growth in recent months. But then I’m confronted with an attitude or a thought, or even an action, I thought I had dug up a long time ago. Every time I discover one of those lovely remnants of what once grew in my “garden,” I’m reminded just how far I still have to go.
From time-to-time, I’ll pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT). But if I’m being honest, I mean, really honest, I usually only pray it when I’m pretty sure God won’t have anything to point out. I pray it when I’m feeling pretty superior about this Christian-walk thing. But inevitably, God responds to my phony prayer with very real answers. He points out the hidden sin, the wrongly-adopted attitude or the unsubmitted area of my heart. He points out more roots and rocks.
You see, in order for a garden to continue to grow, there has to be maintenance. My grandmother spent a lot of time in that garden, even after the vegetables began to grow. She continued to pull up weeds and remove errant rocks. If she hadn’t, before long, the garden would have reverted back to a useless patch of dirt. That’s actually what happened. When she moved back to New York, no one took the time to keep up her garden. Eventually, it just became a dead patch of dirt where grass wouldn’t even grow.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” -Philippians 1:6 NLT
I don’t want that for my life. I don’t want the growth and fruitfulness God has brought to be lost because I’m unwilling to deal with the things He points out. And He doesn’t want that for me either. That’s why He continues to dig around in my life. Because whether I meant it when I prayed it or not, He intends to “lead me along the path of everlasting life,” for His name’s sake. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT).