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A Heart Garden

A beautiful garden reflects a growing heart
Photo Credit: Anna Mente

(By Michelle Snippe)

It’s that time of year again when, if you love to garden, you’re getting ready to get your gloves on and get dirty.

As I’ve been thinking about this, watching spring plants pop up through the soil and begin to bloom, it’s made me think of the very first garden in the Bible. And as I’ve considered it and been thinking about it, one conclusion I’ve come to is this:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden. 

I love that this was man and woman’s first dwelling place. That it wasn’t a palace or a castle or some other grand building overlaid with gold and bustling with angel servants, but a garden. A simple and beautiful and peaceful garden where things grow and blossom and bear fruit.

Adam and Eve were placed in this garden to enjoy it, to commune with God and rest in it. But this beautiful, growing, garden paradise wouldn’t take care of itself, so Adam and Eve were also called to work it and watch over it. This was Adam and Eve's job — history’s first recorded occupation.

In Hebrew, to “work” (‛âbad) the garden means to serve in the garden…to service it. To maintain it by cultivating the soil, by pruning and trimming and planting more seeds. Everything Adam and Eve did in that garden was intended to further its beauty, growth and fruitfulness. 

Additionally, they were also commissioned to “watch it” (shâmar it), meaning to guard and protect and give attention to it. And I believe it would have been a joyful occupation. An occupation that would have given great pleasure to them and to God…until the enemy snuck in, tempting Adam and Eve to sin. 

Then, gardening became a different kind of work. Hard work. Thorns, sweat and painful labor are how God described future gardening to be for them.

A future we feel now in our present, not only physically, but spiritually. 

You see, in this scene, I wonder if God hasn’t given us a bit of a botanical metaphor.

Because, like Adam and Eve, you and I have been given a garden to work and watch over too — a garden that is designed to be the source of growth and beauty and fruit in our lives.

And that is the garden of our hearts.

Interestingly, the Lord, in Jeremiah 31:12, compares our inner being, our heart, to a garden. Isaiah 58:11 mentions His people being “like a watered garden.”

So, I think we can apply this garden metaphor to our hearts and lives as well.

And the Bible links our heart and life in Proverbs 4:23 which it says:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of your life.”

Our entire life flows from our heart. It holds the soil from which the garden of our life grows. Therefore, God warns us to guard it.

This essentially means He’s telling us this garden will require work. Because not only do we feel the fallout of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in our physical gardening, but you and I also deal with the same sin aftermath in our spiritual heart gardens that Adam and Eve did too. And sin affects our heart soil. 

Because we live in a fallen world, spiritual weeds and disease and unwanted pests all find their way there, contaminating the ground from which God has designed the garden of our life to grow and flourish.

So, this hard gardening of our hearts is necessary. Necessary for becoming women whose lives are abundant and whole and flourishing the way God intended them to be. Necessary for us to become women who reflect Christ and give glory to God in our lives.

And whether or not you and I become these women will be determined ultimately by the condition of the soil in our heart gardens and what we allow to be planted and rooted there.

If we leave our heart’s soil unprotected, uncared for, neglected, and unworked, it will root and grow the wrong things in our lives. It will not be able to receive or root the right thing, the one thing that we truly want planted in our heart gardens, the seed of the Word of God, which is what will ultimately grow the fruitful, flourishing life of the Spirit we were made to live.

In other words, in order for the seed of the Word to take root and produce fruit in our lives, there must be the right kind of soil. The soil determines how the seed will respond.

So, we need the soil ready before the seed can ever take root.

This was Jesus’ message to the crowd in Matthew 13 in the parable of the sower and the seed where the farmer goes out and lavishly scatters his seed and it falls, as the Bible tells us, on four different soil conditions producing four different growing results. 

We often use this parable to describe the various responses of unbelievers to the message of the gospel.

But even after a person is saved they still have heart soil. And the seed of the Word still falls on it. And they too must still respond — not to the message of salvation, but to the entire message of Scripture.

Even as believers, this parable models for us the soil conditions we can hold in our hearts and the resulting responses to the Word of God we can potentially manifest. 

And if we’re going to be honest, we can all admit to having hearts made of each soil condition at various points in our lives. 

For instance — the first soil in the parable. It was soil on the path that was hard and packed down, representing a heart soil that could be hard toward the Word of God. Indifferent toward it. Unaffected by it. Leaving it for the enemy to come along and snatch it away.

Hosea 10:12 tells us that this hard, unplowed, neglected ground needs some working up. It needs some holy cultivation so that it might become soil that is ready to receive the seed and ready to rightly respond by letting it take root.

Then there is the second soil in the parable. The shallow, rocky soil into which the seed falls produces a quick “emotional” response one moment, but then the cost of having to do the work to nurture that seed seems too high in the next, so enthusiasm for the Word wanes and no root grows.

Next is the third soil in the parable — the thorn-crowded soil, where the seed falls among the thorns and, as Jesus said, produces no fruit. And we know that it is definitely the goal of the seed of the Word to take root, grow, and produce fruit.

But finally, the heart soil we all want in this parable…the soil described by Jesus as simply being “good soil.” It is cultivated, it is free of rocks and shallowness and threatening thorns, it is rich and ready for the seed to be nourished and take root.

It’s the soil that is ready so the seed can take root.

Now, no woman has ever had perfectly good heart soil every day of every week of every year of her life. But we can choose to prepare our hearts to receive the Word.

We live in the shadow of the first human couple who heard God Himself say: gardening is going to be hard work. An unending work. 

Listen…you and I will be weed-pulling, rock-picking women until the day that Jesus comes!

But this is what God has called us to. So we can’t be careless about these hearts of ours. We’ve got to cultivate them continually, We’ve got to keep the soil in them in good condition so the Words of life can take root in our hearts, because our hearts are the source of our life.

That’s why God calls us to evaluate our heart soil and do the work in it that is necessary. He calls us to do the work in our heart soil because He knows it will ultimately bring Him glory. He calls us to do the work in our heart soil because He knows it will produce a fruitful, flourishing life that will matter here and in eternity.

So, maybe as we prepare to do some physical gardening this spring, we will be reminded that God has called us to take care of our spiritual gardening as well.


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