Did you ever notice that the Bible both begins and ends in a garden? Or that Jesus’ tomb was also in a garden? I was excited when I first made this discovery. A long time gardener, I’ve always felt close to God in my garden and it’s where He so often speaks to me. I hear Him in the plants and the trees; His smile I see in His flowers.
The Bible presents us with the picture of a tender Father who has always been personally involved with His children. This Divine Husbandman tends His own choice vines, in much the same way as a gardener tends his or her own garden; intimately involved, a gardener watches each plant carefully for growth and progress and any sign of pests or detrimental weathers are dealt with accordingly. Carefully tending and sheltering the seedlings until they grow to maturity and harvest, so also our God is intimately involved with us and our progress…
Just the other day I glanced out of my kitchen window and noticed my dahlia bulbs were pushing up through the earth –thin bunches of dark green foliage were already carefully unfolding like scrolls of parchment, stretching heavenward in the warmth of the morning sunlight… soon there would be flower buds, signalling new splashes of colour amidst the verdant growth.
Hastening outside for a closer look at this latest progress I stooped and carefully examined the fresh unfurling green. How amazing that a tiny seed, or a dried up bulb, when buried under the ground, can morph into a completely different form… how could such a transformation be accidental as the evolutionists would have us believe I mused?
Weeks prior I’d dug holes in the earth and planted these dry uninteresting bits of matter and at the time, wondered if they would grow at all, given it was already late in the season to be planting. In addition they’d sat forgotten in a bucket in the shed for spring and early summer and as if shouting, ‘plant me’, had extended long spindly sprouts, reaching almost to the top of the bucket. I’d given my bulbs some water to increase their chances of survival, covered them with soil and added a sprinkling of fertilizer for good measure. I then doused them with lots more water to moisten the earth since our climate is dry and constant watering is a must…
The Lord had been speaking to me that morning of potential as I struggled with the new challenges He’d put before me…now I sensed His familiar voice beginning to explain in the simple form of dahlias what He meant…my mind sought to make sense of the analogy…
Bulbs are very plain unattractive pieces of matter, but concealed within that deceptively plain exterior is a design, courtesy of our Creator God. Virtually everything about the plant that a bulb will produce…its colour, size, shape and variety… are all ‘written’ in there by the Great Designer Himself. The bulb itself did not need to do anything except allow itself to be buried in the ground and receive nurturing from above in order to grow.
Likewise, the very abilities I needed to handle the latest difficulties I was facing and the challenges which seemed so insurmountable, were actually already pre programmed into my genetic make up the moment I was conceived. Unfortunately during the years of my growth from conception to adulthood, other influences were brought to bear on my life that caused me to doubt the abilities and potential that God had placed within me. All my life the enemy of my soul had whispered lies to me; lies I’d believed. Consequently I’d only ever seen myself as a failure. My small thinking had kept my God given potential under wraps…now both the warmth of His love, and the circumstances and trials He brought my way would draw them forth; if I would let Him, and if I was willing to obey.
If nothing else my years as a social worker with at risk families had vividly illustrated this ‘small thinking’ phenomenon for me. I’d witnessed families and individuals who were locked into damaged and dysfunctional life patterns who, try as they might, were unable to transform themselves. Their minds had been programmed to believe they were worthless ‘do nothings’ so their life choices were made accordingly. Self improvement (in our own strength) is extremely difficult and many who try, especially the wounded, give up in despair. I’d learned that alcoholics, who’d entered treatment programmes and then relapsed, had a very high rate of suicide. A sobering thought, but understandable nonetheless. To have tried the ‘ultimate’ cure by the world’s standards – to have actually submitted oneself to a residential programme of treatment – a very big step for an addict – and then to have failed yet AGAIN is like the final blow to hope.
But; I’d also had the joy of observing people miraculously change once reborn by the Spirit of God…’regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God’ (1Peter 1:23). These people for whom I’d prayed in secret, saw their lives transformed into a thing of beauty as their whole being was made new and their God given potential released. I prayed in secret because I was not permitted in my job to share the Gospel with them; however my God with whom nothing is impossible, was well able to send them others who could! God Himself had brought around them other ‘gardeners’ who watered them with the Word, and coaxed them with the warmth of His love to develop into new creatures; unique and individual reflections of His beauty. Like beautiful monarch butterflies they’d struggled for release from their chrysalises, and no longer crippled by long standing family bondages and addictions, they’d emerged to experience what they were created for – flight!
Reflecting again on the dahlia bulbs, the Lord reminded me of John 12:24; ‘…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; never becomes more but lives] by itself alone but if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest’ (Amplified Bible). I’d seen from my gardening the abundance of nature; one marigold plant alone I’d discovered, can produce literally thousands of seeds! It must be buried under the ground and remain there however; and like my dahlia, if watered and fed…it would come forth in another form; a form that was more delightful and more beautiful than the original plain old bulb!
I was reminded here too of the rough goat skins that covered the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 26:7) – a rough exterior that concealed the dazzling presence of God. Behind deceptively plain exteriors God conceals extraordinarily beautiful things…indeed His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9); His ways are past finding out!
But what in practical terms, does it mean to die and be buried? In a single act of abandonment we’re to give our lives unreservedly to God. We literally die to our own wisdom and our own way of doing things. Verse 25 of John 12 says…’But any one who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal – Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on the earth, but despises it, preserves his life for ever.’ ... we must give up our lives and the earthly things we hold dear – then we are given the spiritual things. Jesus was speaking in this scripture of His imminent death.
John tells us that ‘…there was a garden in the place where He was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb...(John 20:41).’ The Son of God would literally die – He would offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind for ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22)’. Laid in a tomb as a seed, in three days He would rise from the dead. Because of this we can now come readily to Him and confess our sins and He will forgive us; thus we can enjoy unbroken fellowship with the Father.
When He requires death of us; He intends to give us life. What an exchange! … for death, we are given life. For ashes, beauty, and for sorrow and mourning, joy. If I’d not put my dahlia bulbs into the earth and watered them there would not now be any foliage sprouting upwards…there would be no flowers, no beauty, no showing forth of that for which this plant was designed. The Master had programmed it to beautify the earth and give pleasure to all who looked upon it. Without death however; none of this could happen.
God is able to transform all that we are and all that we have into things of beauty and usefulness in His Kingdom. We need not bewail the fact that we think we have ‘little’ to offer in the way of abilities or gifts for all we need to serve is given by Him. Like the bulb we are ‘programmed’ with gifts, be they many or few, and whatever they are, they are sufficient and given by God to serve Him.
Take note, those souls who feel so insignificant and unnoticed in their acts of giving, no matter how small, they are indeed noticed by Someone who cares intimately. Like those dried up old bulbs we too can morph into beautiful offerings to our Creator; perfectly fulfilled and doing those things for which we were especially created.
To think of not planting my dahlia bulbs would be sad indeed. They would remain in my garden shed in the dark, useless and unproductive. Gracing my garden however they were now tall and abloom with beautiful purple flowers, nodding in the wind and smiling at the sun. Nearby were white water lily shaped ones, medium in height; then smaller pink miniatures that grew along the edges; all contributing to the beauty of my garden, each adding their own splash of colour…. just like the myriads of souls in God’s kingdom who each add their own individual touch to His Kingdom with their various gifts and personalities – each unique and truly treasured by Him! He loves variety!
We need not fear laying down our lives for Him, for out of death we will experience new life and an abiding joy and peace no matter what comes our way, as we rest in the eternal and divine plan of God!
Laid on the altar
This seed of mine
Take it Lord
And make it Thine
Now comes the fire
God’s holy fire
Burns up my sin
Transformed and new
Now one with You!