Continuing Cultivation

From James K. A. Smith’s recent newsletter over at Image:

In May and June, my hands are dirty and I spend a lot of time thinking about sanctification.

After the danger of Michigan frost is past, usually after Mother’s Day, we return to Hillcrest Community Garden here in Grand Rapids. It always feel like emerging from a winter cocoon. Planting is making a promise to stay near. Only care and attention will coax out the remarkable potential latent in these tiny orbs we call “seeds.” So the garden keeps us placed, obligated to this patch of earth.

I’m really more of a sous-gardener; Deanna is the master. But thanks to her patient instruction, I have grown in my horticultural abilities over the past decade. For example, over the past couple of years, I’ve finally become able to distinguish plants from weeds. As you might imagine, the inability to do so is rather disastrous. Sometimes while aggressively fending off invaders, I uprooted the tender shoots of plants just emerging. In other cases, my ignorance meant I left weeds to flourish, choking out what we planted. Can you see why I keep thinking about sanctification? There is something focal about weeding. Often as I have my head down, focused on a square of garden between the peppers and eggplant, my fingers plunged into the soil, my mind wanders into metaphors I learned from parables and I’m thinking about the state of my soul.

I’ll start musing, for example, on the fact that the same conditions that cause our tomatoes grow also help weeds to flourish. As long as there is a garden, there are weeds. If planting seeds is promising to stay near, the hope of a harvest means a commitment to be here each night, weeding in the evening light while killdeers chirp and run, from May to September. Get used to it.

These last two years at school we’ve had the theme of “Cultivate,” which comes from our Expected Schoolwide Learning Results.  And while I haven’t spent much time in a garden lately, I’ve spent a decent amount of time reflecting on some of the parables that Smith alludes to.  It’s good to be reminded of the day-to-day task of cultivation and care, not just of the soil but of the soul.

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