Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Gardening as Spiritual Discipline

For several hundred years Christians have argued about carts and horses. Catholics have argued that faith without action is not faith. Protestants have argued that works divorced from belief is barren. We argue which is the horse and which is the cart, and who has what before which. The fact is that faith and action are related, and separable only in theory. Every action arises from a belief; every belief comes from and leads to an action.

Protestants like myself are increasingly coming to understand the value of action, doing, and ritual. Many of the actions Christians have done for centuries are called "spiritual disciplines." Discipline is a word with a bit too much negative baggage, but as I find myself way out on a tangent, I'll return to the point of the posting.

I have not found gardening listed as a spiritual discipline, a faith activity, etc. in any of the many great books I have read on this subject. Not in Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, nor in the more recent Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner.

Nevertheless, I find gardening listed as a spiritual activity in other Christian books: Genesis (unsigned, but probably written by Moses, of anti-slavery fame), Matthew (self-titled.) Indeed, Christianity is probably the most pro-gardening of all world religions. Paradise is a garden, humans (lively humus) were created to garden, and new life begins in a garden, where Jesus was mistaken for a gardener.

Today, like most winter days, I learn faith from my garden. It is dormant, dead, frozen and white. I know there is life there, but I cannot see it, not in this season. I hope. Despite the snow and the wintery evidence, I hope. I have faith that come spring the wildflowers will do what wildflowers were created to do: green, grow, bloom.

It is a good lesson in life in this materialistic, unjust, and too oft hurting world. There is hope. Spring and life will come.

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