Every now and then, a menial task is illuminated by something I read. I am working my way through N.T. Wright’s book After You Believe and came across this:
Humans are to enable the garden to flourish, and to speak words which bring articulate order to the wonderful diversity of God’s creation.
The garden Wright speaks of is a reference to Eden, a microcosm of all creation. And we are called to reign over this garden.
I spent the summer tending to my parents backyard. My mom usually keeps up with it quite well, but she spent much of the summer traveling and it was beginning to revert back to its “natural state.” So the hot summer days were spent weeding, pulling out dead plants, exterminating countless mud wasps (which I finally conceded was a losing battle), and trimming back rose bushes and other shrubs intent on expanding their little kingdoms. Pots were replanted and flower beds were reclaimed. A drainage area that constantly held standing water was turned into a water bog garden. A broken pot my mom particularly liked was renewed to look like an ancient artifact with a new plant growing out the side. Everything had order and purpose again.
It was an odd summer; much of it was spent in transition. So often I felt like my career was sinking, my faith was stagnating, and the future uncertain. All I did was reclaim the backyard for my parents.
But sometimes, when we feel like we are accomplishing the least, we are actually making great strides in the kingdom of God. I read that quote from N.T. Wright at the end of the summer and it changed my perception of things. My summer was spent literally getting my hands dirty restoring order to a little slice of creation and allowing it to flourish.
In the Old Testament, the temple in Jerusalem was another microcosm of creation. It was a picture of what the world would look like when God’s kingdom was fully come. So what part of creation has God entrusted to my care – to tend to, to reign, and to restore order? First, our own bodies are under our direct care, and I am discovering that mine needs evermore attention lest disrepair sets in. Next, there is a relational sphere that I am called to tend and care for. Friends and family can either wilt or flourish depending on how I might serve and be served by them. Regardless of the circumstances, my soul also can either flourish or dry up, depending on how I tend to it.
And yes, this summer, God entrusted a small part of creation called my parents backyard into my care as well.