The Old Testament prophets Isaiah (58:11) and Jeremiah (31:12) both apply the rich imagery of ‘a well watered garden’ to the people of God, and King Solomon in his Song of Songs (6:2) likens his Beloved to ‘a garden of delight’.
If Jesus is the ultimate bridegroom king, and his beloved bride is the church, then perhaps we can learn from the garden gurus some tips on how to tend our souls so that he can enjoy our company.
Gardeners tells me that January is a good month for ‘general maintenance’. That means taking stock and planning ahead. It’s a time to declutter and clean out the shed. Take these cracked dirty plant pots and broken old tools to the city recycling centre.
I like to take time in January to reflect on my life with God, so that I don’t take bad attitudes, resentments or known sin into a new year. What am I hoarding in my ‘shed’ that needs to go?
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps139:23-24).
It was January last year that I watched in horror as my husband and daughter pruned the apple tree in her new garden. They were ruthless. The tree hadn’t been pruned for years and the branches were overgrown and crowded, letting in little light. They chopped so much off that I wondered if the poor tree would ever produce apples again. How wrong I was! It recovered well and produced a bumper crop in late summer. January is a good month for pruning.
In John 15 Jesus says God is the gardener who prunes our fruitful branches to make us more fruitful. As we enter a new year it isn’t so much my weaknesses that concern me as my strengths. It’s easy to start to feel I’m good at something and subconsciously rely less on God. I welcome his humbling, though painful, as he reminds me that without him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
It was the very articulate prophet Isaiah who on meeting with God realised he was ‘a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5)!
January is the perfect month to mulch, I’m told, and a Christmas tree is perfect material for this! The pine needles keep weeds down and improve the soil by helping it retain moisture. They are slow to break down and don’t get mouldy; they act like a blanket to protect plants from the cold. Last year I walked past a pile of Christmas trees in our local park waiting to be chopped, shredded and recycled as mulch; the pine aroma filling the air was breathtaking.
Christmas is not for one day in the year, but for life! Without it, there would be no Easter, no Ascension, no Pentecost, no hope for the future. So, this January, I plan to keep mulching its glorious truths and wrap them like a blanket of sweetness around my soul. Emmanuel, God with me, is the greatest story ever told; I will never fully plumb its depth. Life, like winter, can be cold and harsh, but Christ in Christmas will keep me warm. He is for me to make me more like himself, fruitful in attitude and action to be his garden of delight.