I (Alex) was working with my wife today planting a small raised garden, and I started thinking about the gardening process. You know what had to happen? I had to dig out and kill a lot of grass. The grass was good; it was not doing anything wrong, but it had to be ripped out. Then the dirt had to be tilled and worked. And so, now I’m left with a patch of dirt, and right now it’s not pretty- but it is necessary.
Soon I will lay down good soil and plant seeds in that good soil and I will be patient as I wait for the seeds to grow. They will grow slowly, and in that process there will be waiting and pruning as some of the seeds don’t turn into anything or even die. But I, the gardener, will be patient, waiting for the day when good fruit will come.
While working, it struck me: God is the gardener is this picture, and sometimes life is painful as the grass gets ripped out and seems to leave behind an empty plot of dirt. “The grass was just fine! What was wrong with the grass?” I say to God.
With great patience, He answers as I discern His Spirit reminding me: It is needed. In order for the good fruit to grow, the grass has to be ripped out or it would strangle and kill the good fruit. He never left either; He watches over His garden every day to keep away that which would destroy it. He tells me not to fear, because one day He will return to harvest when it is ripe. In doing so He will bring me into His home.
Let’s not miss who we are in the analogy: not the gardener. The most humbling fact is we are the patch of dirt in this analogy, thinking our grass was good but in reality that grass is chaff. John the Baptist spoke to what Jesus would do with the Chaff in Matthew 3:12 (CSB) “…His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” We need the good crop that the Gardener is working in us. When we trust and follow Christ, the ripping out of the grass can be painful (even the removing of our filthy rags we call good works). The tilling of the soil (our heart and mind) is painful but needed so that the good soil can come in and the Gardener can plant the good crop that will bear good fruit.
This is often not a process that occurs over just a few painful months as you grow in faith, but a process over the course of our life. This is known as progressive sanctification. What became clear to me in this analogy is that the end is when the crop is ripe and ready for harvest. That does not come until Christ harvests.
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:14-16). And so “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14, ESV).