I'm sure many of you are gardeners.
I've grown quite fond of vegetable gardening. As newbies to Clinton County, this year marks our fourth garden.
I've written previous "Finding Faith" articles about gardening and God. Last year I focused on how our affection and care for our garden plants relates to God's infinitely greater affection and care for us.
However, as I have been watering the plants this season, I have been confronted with the reality of what it takes to keep them healthy.
I've found there are three types of plants. Some plants thrive and do very well with just a little bit of care. Other plants have infections, and I regularly have to pick off the injured leaves to minimize the spread of the infection. And there are plants who are closer to death because of hard ground around their base and weeds that threaten to choke them.
As I have been caring for these three different groups of plants it has been very easy to relate their growth to our own spiritual formation with God and our Godly living.
Here are a few lessons I have learned:
1. In order for all of the plants to grow I have to regularly soften or cultivate the soil around their base. If I do not constantly attend to their soil the base will not breath enough nor will the plants absorb the necessary amount of water.
The dirt relates well to our hearts. If our hearts are hard then we will not be able to receive the words God has for us. In other words, if experiences in life have made our hearts hard, hurt, apathetic, cold or just distant from God, we will likely not be able to hear or receive what God is telling us for our lives. We will then not be able to grow as God is inviting us. And believe me, what God offers is so life-giving.
What do we do? Identify what has hardened your heart and begin asking God to soften it so that you are open to His word through the Bible and friends.
2. In order for the plants to stay healthy, I have to regularly prune off infected leaves that threaten to kill the whole plant.
This is the part of Christianity many of us balk at and close our ears to. Plants, like us, need to be pruned. It is clear in almost every horticultural example that pruning is necessary for new and healthy growth. The same standard or principle is true for humans, but why do we allow old and infected parts of our lives to hang around and damage the whole?
In other words, if there are "infected" or dirty parts of our lives that we are holding on to, those parts will definitely overlap into other areas of our life and keep us from growing closer to God. They will in some manner kill us spiritually.
For example, if we have a problem with lying, gossip, pornography, or criticism, these infected leaves begin to infiltrate the way we think, the way we look at others, the way we love, and how we view ourselves. In order to grow healthy, the infection has to be cut off. We have to limit or eliminate those ingredients of our life.
What do we do? Identify the dirty parts of our lives that are unGodly. Ask God to take them out of your life. The truth is, we each have the responsibility of just saying "no" to them and stopping the infection. However, some of us will need supernatural help to cut them out of our lives.
God has given us life-giving principles to live by that help us have healthy families, healthy friendships, healthy marriages, and above all, an intimate relationship with God.
Godliness doesn't just happen, though. Holiness is not an accidental thing that occurs to us overnight. We play a role in being more Christ-like. We must cultivate our hearts and prune infectious things in our lives.
If you feel like your faith is stagnant or not growing, or you are distant and disconnected from God, you may want to reflect on your spiritual garden to see how you are tending it.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week's column comes from Rev. Benjamin Lins, pastor of Great Island Presbyterian Church, Lock Haven.