Garden of Personal Growth

About five years ago, my church administrator approached me with, “Carolyn, you’re a Master Gardener, what should we do with our church grounds?” After my brain kicked in, I responded, “Why don’t you turn it into a Bible garden?” At that time, the various small plots in the front of the church were filled with a juniper ground cover. Weeds grew among the juniper and, in the way of juniper, some of the evergreen had turned brown. Walking into the church wasn’t an inviting experience.

Planting a Bible garden is intentional. At its center, a Bible garden has plants named in the Bible. That means that we could have over 125 such plants. As my husband and I worked hard at developing a church Bible garden, I saw analogies between the growth of Bible plants and Christian growth.

After reviewing growth characteristics of Bible-named plants, we realized that some wouldn’t grow well in our climate. Even if seeds germinated and grew during the summer, our mountain-valley (Roanoke, Virginia) winters were too cold for them to live over winter. Similarly, some environments aren’t suitable for a Christian to grow, particularly a new or young Christian. If I had to identify the most important climate for Christian growth, it would be a Bible-believing church that adheres to the faith of the apostles.

In our church Bible garden, plants required water and nutrients. Christians also need water and fertilizer to grow. We installed soaker hose to water plants and attempted to fertilize plants monthly. The Holy Spirit is the water that is inside the growing Christians. For Christians, the best fertilizer is the Bible, God’s Word.

Tending, tending, tending! I spend half of my time tending this Bible garden. Tending includes weed pulling, pruning, dead heading, etc. These activities are necessary to always make the garden look fresh and beautiful.

As Christians, we must tend other Christians and tend ourselves. We tend others by encouraging them (Hebrews 10:23), blessing them (1 Peter 3:9), loving them, and cheerfully sharing our homes with them (1 Peter 4:8-9). We tend ourselves by growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Specifically, we must pull weeds out of our life (negative thoughts are my weeds), prune our behavior so that the behavior exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and remove dead or sinful behaviors.

Reflection: Paul identified that we need to “dead head” (my word) the desires of our sinful nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). Paul averred that anyone living that sort of life won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.