Conditions for Growth
My husband and I would love to have a garden. We envision someday having dozens of square feet of lush, ripe soil filled to overflowing with vegetables of all kinds, a harvest too much for our family, but perfect for sharing with neighbors and friends. This spring we dreamed of beginning one, yet looking ahead to our traveling schedule over the summer, we decided to wait another year.
Instead, my husband thought we should try our hand at a couple of easy-to-grow veggies in large rectangular flower pots on our sun-drenched deck to see if he had a green thumb. He started with radishes. They grew beautifully and easily and we enjoyed fresh radishes on our salads for a number of weeks. Next he planted some carrot seeds. "Five weeks", read the packet. So we waited.
But the tiny green shoots coming from the soil didn't look like they ever matured. They were scrawny and thin and we could only hope that the carrots underneath were full-grown.
Last week, my husband had had enough of the waiting and decided to pull one out to see for himself what they looked like. His over-dramatic disappointment (purely for the kids' sake) at the sad, puny, hairy little vegetable at the end of the shoot cracked us up and we considered this experiment a failure.
Somehow, the conditions were not appropriate for those little carrots to grow to their full potential. Not being a natural gardener (and coming from a long line of conspicuously poor ones), I really don't know why. Maybe they were spaced too closely together. Maybe the soil wasn't deep enough. Maybe they had too much rain. I have no idea.
I assume it shouldn't be so hard to grow things. After all, God created them, all we have to do is cultivate them and allow them ample opportunity to grow. We all want to bear fruit in our lives as well- those wonderful ideals in scripture such as patience and kindness, long-suffering and peace- and again, as in those carrots, those character traits are natural, God-created ones waiting for us to help cultivate in our own lives.
There's something else, though, that needs cultivation and care to thrive. Something that requires nurture and proper conditions to reach maturity.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
I think we often consider sin to be something that simply is there, or isn't. A failure to obey, a giving-in to temptation that is clear-cut and hopefully isolated, or perhaps a pattern of behavior that we repeat over and over. But James says that sin grows in us. In order for something to grow it requires the proper environment to thrive. And for certain sins, the ones that I fall often into, I am the right environment.
While I try to create in myself the perfect conditions for the fruit of the spirit, I also seek to minimize the popular growing opportunities for the sin that so quickly entangles me. In my life, those sins include pride, a critical spirit, lack of patience and self-control, and discontentment. When I sense a little bit of one of these sin patterns creeping into my life- scrawny and small, like the carrot we grew- I am sure to disrupt their environment and overturn the soil they are growing in, so they can't reach maturity. Perhaps I find a close sister in Christ who can keep me accountable, increase my time with the Lord, find extra opportunities to foster feelings of gratefulness, or practice purposeful acts of kindness.
Sin doesn't have to become full-grown. It is a choice we make each day.
So as I try to learn how to garden successfully, with inevitable failures along the way, I will use my attempts to remember that there are two kinds of things that can either flourish or wither in me as well. As I prepare the soil of the earth, I will also prepare the soil of my heart to cultivate good and not evil.
As you tend to your inner garden, I ask you: What grows well in you?
Christine can be found daily at her personal blog: