I've just come in from the back what I like to call the vegetable garden area. Many years ago I created some raised beds in a back corner of the yard and they started out as a butterfly habitat area when there wasn't much other habitat in the yard to speak of. Over the years, as the yard plantings have expanded, the beds have served as an herb garden and a vegetable garden, though last year, I am sorry to say, my dachshunds managed to eat more of the produce than the humans did. Fencing the area will be a priority this spring.
Most years I have taken better care of putting the garden to bed than this year and this morning I was feeling considerable remorse for ignoring the soil that should be protected through the winter. Since the weather wasn't too cold or wet, this became the morning to take care of the long neglected chore of gathering my neighbor's piled up leaves and grass clippings and mulching the garden beds. The wheelbarrow and I made trip after trip gathering and dumping and though I took a break for a while, I knew better than to hope I'd finish it another day if I stopped for very long. Finally after a couple of hours in the wind I was satisfied with my work and called it a morning. Now when I venture out to the garden I'll picture all the soil microorganisms feeding on the plant material I put down and the beds being enriched by their efforts.
Somewhere along the line, while pushing the wheelbarrow filled with yet another load of dried grass and leaves, I thought about how I'd like my life with God to be similar to the garden task I had undertaken. I wasn't caring for the garden on this winter day because it was in crisis or because there was some extraordinary need. It was just a task that should have been done, a rather routine task really, particularly if it had been accomplished at the proper time instead of waiting until after Christmas. I was just doing what was necessary to ensure the health and fertility of the soil so that next growing season the garden will be as productive as possible. I think of cultivating my spiritual life in the same way. It is in my unremarkable daily interactions with God that we build the relationship that sustains me and from which I draw when I find myself in need. Lately my prayer has been that God will increase the presence of His Spirit within me, causing me see the world and the people in it through His eyes. I imagine the process is going to take even longer than the time needed to build and enrich the soil in my garden but just as in soil building, I do not see myself as the one who does the work. In soil building I bring in the organic material but it is the soil microorganism who do the work of enrichment. In the same way, as I bring myself to God, it is He who does the work of transformation in my heart and spirit. That work isn't something that I could ever hope to accomplish myself.
As so often happens, there are analogies between the natural world and life with God almost everywhere I look. The trick is to stop and pay attention and then to listen to what they have to say.