Gardening and dating
Gardening and dating – What has gardening got to do with dating? Well, unless you’ve met a landscape gardener, or someone who loves their allotment, probably not much…? Ha! Well, let me surprise you…..
I have a very large garden. It has been unbearably overgrown. I have walked out into it, taken a deep breath, and walked back indoors on many occasions. Last summer, attempting to have my breakfast by the pond, it was difficult to find room on the old stone seat because of the brambles. I have lost sleep over this garden. In short, I have neglected it.
But early this year, I decided to get my garden in order. I looked at my fork, my spade and my rake – and picked up the phone.
My lady gardener was excellent. She came and cleared the nettles from my flowerbed – at least I think it was a flowerbed – so that I now have bare earth to plant some vegetables.
Then she looked at my apple tree. It was choked with brambles. She removed them at some personal cost – I heard a shriek at one point; the brambles had had their revenge, but she still continued and at last the tree was free to breathe – and I’d be able to see the lovely blossom in the spring.
Then a neighbour started to put a fence up for me where the panels had come down. At the same time he began to cut the ivy away from the big oak tree the other side of the fence. And then came my friend and her son, who took away bags of garden rubbish for me.
So what has this to do with dating?
Sometimes we need help when trying to sort out the tangles in our personal lives. Failed relationships leave hurt feelings, and resentment and bitterness have to be cleared out of the way before new things can grow. It’s no good having good ‘soil’ being taken up with things you don’t want there – and frankly, don’t need. Why have nettles spreading and choking a fertile flowerbed, when you’d rather have new, good things growing there?
Likewise, my lovely Bramley apple tree was covered in brambles so I couldn’t see the blossom and the fruit was difficult to get at. My neighbour told me, too, that ivy can kill a tree. It wraps itself around the trunk, making growth impossible. How easy it is to let ‘stuff’ cling to us, change our shape, and drain our energy.
Of course, he also started to erect a new fence. My panels had come down, mostly due to the ivy which warped the wood and destroyed the fence. Boundaries are important. Perhaps it’s time for you to think about your boundaries, and what might have moved them. It’s good to set boundaries in relationships…spiritual, mental, emotional, and sexual. Don’t compromise. Get into reading the Word of God, and listening to what God wants for you in any future relationship. What is his loving guidance for you, in the situation you find yourself in today? You may be hoping for love – but you already have the love of God. Ask him to put his own boundaries in you; this will protect you.
As for taking away bags of rubbish… once the ‘enemy’ has been identified and bagged up, then let it go. Forgiveness is hard, but it’s a key to moving forward.
Rome wasn’t built in a day…
I needed help in my garden because I realized I couldn’t do it myself. Now much of the hard work has been carried out, I think I can manage it. I may ask friends for help during the summer months, or they may offer. I might employ the gardener again at some point. My neighbour is still putting up the fence. It’s an ongoing project. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ I think he said to me. That’s almost biblical but not quite.
When we identify we have a problem, we may ask for help. Then we may feel able to manage our life adequately, with some support now and again, being careful not to let our ‘gardens’ get overgrown with weeds and rubbish once more. OK, it might take time, but we need to do it, if we want to live full and fulfilling lives in Jesus. Lives that glorify him whether we have a ‘significant other’ or not.
One of the things I noticed when my garden had been cleared up was that there were many places that were bare. I am planning to plant vegetables, as I mentioned, and some of my favourite flowers too. I’m not scared of the empty spaces; they are spaces that can be filled with something good. So often we look at empty spaces in our lives where there used to be something (or someone) and we are sad; but when we look at this a different way, we can start to feel a spark of enthusiasm for something new. Nothing can grow on choked-up ground. But it can thrive when there is space for it.
And the conclusion?
Once we get rid of the rubbish in our lives, we can more easily hear God, and minister to others. We aren’t focused on the damage the brambles are doing to us, however we define them in our lives. Even if we need help, they can go.
The garden of our life might have been beautiful, but got ruined somehow. Perhaps it was never that good. But it can be. Remember, the great Gardener is God. In John 15, Jesus spoke of himself as the ‘vine’ and of believers as ‘branches’ of that vine. The Gardener, God, will prune the branches; indeed, without cutting back and pruning there can be no growth. But it is for our good, not for our harm.
It might be strange for you to think about your life as a garden, but it can be very helpful.
Try to imagine it now; what does your life actually look like, in terms of a garden or park area? Is it beautiful, with a few places that need help and restoration? Is it unmanageable and as tangled and ‘lost’ as my real garden was? Ask Jesus to show you what he wants to do in that garden; what rubbish he needs to clear so that you can thrive. And remember – patience. You just can’t be a gardener without it.
If this has struck a chord with you, maybe talking with a trusted Christian friend or minister would be good. It’s always sensible to consult an expert… and of course, the real expert in life is – Jesus. Trust him for new and good things. A husband? A wife? Possibly. But a peaceful walk in the presence of the Gardener – well, what’s better than that?
Sheila Jacobs is a Christian writer and editor, and an award-winning author of eleven novels, including Watchers (Authentic). She has also written non-fiction (Insight into Forgiveness, with Ron Kallmier). Single, she lives in rural north Essex, loves the countryside, and is a deacon in her local Elim church.