He and I have been talking/writing some recently about our experiences in gardening and the way it seems to snatch us up out of the busy suburban lifestyle and bring to us an intense focus on the role of humans in the divine creation...stewardship of the resources...tending to the garden.
Dale and I were supposed to get together for a visit tonight, but it got preempted because of my poor planning. This afternoon I got a text message from him saying he had left a book on my doorstep at home that he didn't want to wait until Sunday to give to me. He also mentioned it was a book he had read many times and he thought I would enjoy it, too.
The title is Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, by Eastern Orthodox theologian, Vigen Guroian.
No sooner than the first paragraph of the text, I read:
I am a theologian and a college professor. I like being both. But what I really love to do -- what I get exquisite pleasure from doing -- is to garden. I think that gardening is nearer to godliness than theology.
He goes on to say in this first meditation that his love of creation is not that of the Romanticist. He says,
The mystical enjoyment comes not without the toilsome struggle of raking and sowing and pulling up the weeds. In my garden the thistle grows more easily than the primrose. Sin grows in my body more readily than purity, and the keys to my garden do not admit me back through Eden's gates.
This is why I believe it is harder to see God now than it was when I was much younger. Maybe because of social conditioning, or laziness, or just plain sin, I found it much easier to give in to the notion that leveraging less toil for greater benefits would always produce the desired results. The risk/reward ratio sometimes pays off, but in the natural world, it's a risk not worth taking.
Hence, I have lived much of my life as a sloth, waiting...and many times just giving up...on God to lavish blessings on me.
While it is biblically accurate to say that work does not produce righteousness, the Bible doesn't go so far as to say that work is evil, much less that it is contrary to faith or God's intent for humans.
Trying harder is a good thing. Sometimes, automation and efficiency rob us of the contemplative time we might enjoy should we toil longer with the simple human tools we have...like our own bare hands, muscles, and ingenuity.
I am looking forward to finishing the book over the next few days. My rosebuds are about to pop open with color and fragrance, my spring vegetable seeds are pushing upward into the sunlight, and the fresh air of the Spirit seems to be whispering in my ear...all is well.