My plot of land was destroyed. I looked at it in despair, smoke rising from places, vegetables trampled under the careless and heavy usage of people I thought were friends, fruit trees cut down and rocks and stones littering the ground. It was good for nothing anymore, and all those who had seemed invested had now abandoned this barren place. I was starving, but there was no sustenance here. It was over, and I had nothing left.
The Gardener came, to my shame. There was no garden left. Only hard soil and destruction.
He told me to get up and build a fence.
To protect what? The rocks?
He started work without me, and eventually I joined – not because I understood the task, but because he was the only one who had come. I was tired of being alone.
The fences finished, he wrote on them “walls of salvation,” he called them.
“This will protect you,” he told me, “not just the garden. Now, we make the gates.”
For who? There was nobody here anymore. But the Gardener bid me make them anyway.
“Gates of praise,” he named them, looking at me, “you might want them some day.”
I couldn’t imagine, but I had no energy to argue. We built these gates of praise, and I closed each firmly behind me.
“Now it’s time for the garden,” he stretched, looking expansively at the hardened ground. I scoffed. There was no garden, and no hope for one, but we bent down and picked out the rocks. We dug up weeds and tilled the ground. All the effort seemed wasted, leaving only less rocks, less weeds, less hardness… but no inviting soil, waiting for planting. He was unperturbed.
He handed me seeds – I knew not what for – and I dutifully put them in the hard dirt.
“Now we wait,” he said, satisfied, and sat back.
It rained. The sun came. It rained more, then more sun. After a few days we saw the shoots – small, fragile things, green and tender coming up from the ground.
“We’ll need to protect them,” the Gardener told me, and we carefully picked through the rows, pulling up weeds and throwing out more rocks.
The rain came, the sun shone down, and it grew more.
“I’ll be back,” the Gardener said, preparing to leave, “Remember: walls of salvation and gates of praise. And look after these plants.”
I agreed, still too scared to dare hope, yet unable to deny the life growing before my very eyes.
Then seeds we planted were growing: gentleness. hope. peace. health. Small things, and their tender shoots both scared me and encouraged me – I feared it might be just one more thing to lose.
The Gardener comes daily to check on things. Those tiny green shoots are now bearing small fruits: tomatoes, peas, carrots – not an abundance, but enough to keep me fed and share a little with those who come by. I have one gate open – a gate of praise – and I’ve begun to know some neighbours. Other gates stay closed, and I am relieved when those who took so carelessly from me now stay on the outside of my plot.
I see things growing I did not expect: strength, confidence, joy.
I see things flourishing that ought not to: fruit trees, though I’m told this is the wrong place and wrong climate. I tell this to the Gardener and he laughs. “Trust the Creator of all Gardens,” he tells me, “not those so-called experts.” His mirth is infectious and I join in his laughter.
So here I am: still in the season of watching and waiting. But I watch it now with amazement and wonder. I remember when it was nothing but an abandoned field, good for nothing. I remember picking rocks and tilling hard ground. I remember when fences seemed absurd – protecting whom from what? Now they are necessary, keeping pests and vandals out. I remember when gates were terrifying. Now they are gifts, inviting others in. I remember when those tender shoots looked like they were too fragile to live. Now they flourish, filled with fruit and buds.
My garden is alive. It has begun to produce. And one day there will be so much I will be able to feed the neighbourhood with its abundance.
The Gardener shares his delight with me. He saw it long before I did, and he nudges me and whispers, “We’re not done yet. There is more to come.”
Photos by Kelly Sikkema, Wolfgang Hasselmann and Markus Spiske on Unsplash