Planting in Hope
My wife and I are not really the gardening type. She grew up in the concrete jungle of San Francisco, and me, well, I don’t really relish dirt. But this year we are planting a garden. And in world where you can learn how to do almost anything through the magic of YouTube, we are reinventing ourselves as gardeners.
Apparently we are not alone in this impulse to garden. It has become a cultural phenomena in this pandemic, attested by the empty gardening supply shelves at Home Depot and Lowes. And it makes perfect sense. Most of us are stuck, working from home. We need creative outlets. We are learning new skills and tricks in doing life in quasi-quarantine.
But I think there is something more profound motivating our and so many others’ new-found passion for gardening: the need to produce tangible good, as a sign of our hope for the future. So many things have been taken away from us: graduations, weddings, proms, sports, vacations, meetups at the pub, blind dates, not to mention jobs, and even our health. Maybe most disconcerting is the pervasive uncertainly we all feel in this time. How long will this pandemic last? When can we get back to normal life? Will life ever be normal again? What is the new normal?
Thus, in the midst of such morbid uncertainty, we desperately need some semblance of normalcy, something that is within our power to control or produce. Welcome to gardening.
Gardening (and its much larger cousin, farming) is the very essence of human productivity. It has literally been around as long as humans have existed. We plant various seeds, cultivate them, and in due time we harvest tangible, edible produce that sustains life and brings joy and gladness to many. It’s so basic, earthy. But also, so profound. Even mysterious.
Think about it: we place seeds or bulbs into the earth. We water and weed. And then marvelously, even magically, these seeds sprout into plants, which eventually become fruits and vegetables that we turn into smoothies, salads, and with a little chemistry, wine and spirits.
Gardening is the shelter-at-home version of getting our degree, or that certification, or scraping together our resources to place that down payment on our first home mortgage. It can feel daunting, exhausting, and risky. But we do it believing that in time, with cultivation, it will produce a harvest of good that will bring joy and provision for ourselves, our loved ones, and even our communities.
We plant gardens in hope. We dig, get dirty and sore, with the anticipation that in due time we will enjoy the fruit of our labors. But there is inherent uncertainty in gardening. The seeds we plant are unimpressive to say the least. By itself, it is hard to imagine this tiny bean looking thing could become a cabbage or carrot or ear of corn. It requires vision, and hope.
No one plants one day and expects fruit the next. We instinctively, appropriately wait and work, and wait some more, all in the expectation that the harvest will come and will produce a crop of delightful, nourishing, beautiful fruit. And there is something deeply satisfying in seeing and enjoying the fruit of our labors.
So we plant in hope.
What is true in gardening is true in life. There is in this pandemic the opportunity to plant “seeds” in hope, seeds that will in due time produce a harvest of good. Paul of Tarsus shared this sentiment when he wrote, in a letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth:
“Some plant, others water, but it is God who gives the growth.”
None of us have ever created an apple or made an avocado ripen. But we can plant seeds. We can cultivate gardens. We do these things in hope, that it will grow, and with the produce, we can boil and bake and make bread, brew beer, and enjoy the fruit of our labor.
I hope each of you are planting your “garden” in this time. It may be an actual garden or it may be some other tangible work you are putting in during this time of limitation and uncertainty. This can look like so many things. Some examples just in my own household look like this:
- My son William, who as a 2020 high school senior, has lost every organized means to practice and play baseball in this time. His dream is to play college baseball, and maybe even beyond. Thus, in hope, he has created a ragtag home gym and has made up his own baseball workouts 6 days a week in preparation for baseball opening back up again and to fulfill his dream of collegiate ball
- My Son-in-law Jack, who was laid off within the first two weeks of the pandemic, and this his first year of marriage no less. But rather than mope, he is taking this time in which he is receiving unemployment assistance to expedite the finishing up of his college degree and prepare himself to be more hirable when the job market opens up.
- My twelve year old daughter Hope, who like her namesake, has used this pandemic time to write her first novel. She loves to write and to create. She has sown 135 pages of written seed and she hopes someday to see the fruit of her labor get published.
I want to encourage you get planting, watering, and weeding. Plant in hope. In due time you shall reap.
I would love to hear about your “gardens.” What are you planting in this time? What fruit are you hoping for?
You can contact me at Ben@cross-community.org to share your story with me.