Have you got a garden? Do you enjoy gardening? Perhaps you are having a go at it now because, in the present situation, you actually have extra time on your hands?
Being out in green spaces is good for our well-being but I actually like to think it’s good for God as well. Gardening can be on a large scale of course. There are many beautiful gardens that open to visitors and they can be inspirational as well as filling us with awe. In a garden I visited in Yorkshire recently I discovered that the incredible patterns and colours of the flower arrangements depend on the replanting, twice a year, of 8000 bulbs and 24000 young plants!
Our gardens are probably a lot less demanding but can be just as beautiful. Whatever their size, they are a part of God’s creation and we need to care for them just as much as we care for natural environments anywhere. I recently purchased a ‘garden quiz book’ which is full of facts about gardens and plants – lots to learn if you can’t answer the questions! But we don’t need to know a lot about gardens and plants in order to take care of our own patch. Caring for a garden tends to come naturally. After all we, too, are a part of God’s creation.
Gardens feature a lot in the Bible. There are the well known gardens, such as Eden and Gethsemane, but there are many smaller less well-known gardens too. In particular there are many references to gardens in the Old Testament, possibly because people cultivated small areas of land for fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they grew flowers as well. Significantly in that country they needed a supply of water. And often they needed a keeper, someone to watch over the produce at harvest times. Gardens were also used for family events, much as they are today, and for relaxation.
Gardens are mentioned in the New Testament too. Often these gardens are linked to the life of Jesus. In Jerusalem it is possible to visit a special garden - the Garden Tomb. It is a pretty garden, located near to the city walls. It contains an ancient tomb, thought by some to be the tomb used for the body of Jesus after his crucifixion and also the place of his resurrection. Many visitors find in the garden a sense of holiness and some, having heard the story of Jesus, find the living Christ.
The Quiet Garden Movement, a Christian initiative, encourages people to open up green spaces for contemplation and relaxation. Sometimes these are attached to churches, but also schools, homes and hospitals. Visitors enjoy somewhere quiet where they can rest in nature. They can be people of any faith or none – their common quest is to experience a little part of God’s creation. If you are able, visit the website. It not only lists the gardens but also has resources to promote well-being, such as meditative exercises, photographs and prayers.
How then do you come close to God in a garden? Perhaps in all ways – working in it, sitting in it, watching and listening to the wildlife in it. Someone said recently ‘I’ve actually seen things grow this spring!’. With extra time on our hands we can observe God’s creativity in action in our gardens. As we spend time tending our gardens and observing what is happening in our gardens we can quite easily come close to God. And God can come close to us too.