I enjoy growing vegetables. We have a small garden at home and lease a raised bed at the community garden in South Bend. It’s a delight to watch plants start from seed and mature to the point of harvest, then to bring them into the kitchen – where I practice another favorite pastime, cooking.
The midst of winter is a special time in the garden. The beds are bare and the soil appears dark and dormant. There are no tender sprouts, no leafy greens, and no sprawling vines across its surface. The old dead plants have been cleared out or they have rotted away. Not even a weed pokes up from the earth.
But all is not as it seems. Just inches below the surface, several species of worms seek the warmth of the sun and move upwards during the day, retreating deeper as the evening chill sets in. A fine network of white threads of mycelium spread silently throughout the soil. Literally thousands of microbes enliven the garden bed, unseen but essential to the life yet to begin in the spring.
There are times in our life when all seems dark and dull. Sorrow takes hold like rot on a spent plant stem, and grief strips bare the life that once was. We question if life will ever bring good things again. Happiness is as elusive as a homegrown western Washington tomato in February.
But all is not as it seems. In the most difficult times of our lives, God stands with us. We are never alone, never left to face life without the love and presence of the One who always loves us. It is often difficult for us to see what is happening beneath the surface in our hearts, to look past the brokenness and pain. But our inability to sense God’s presence does not make it any less a reality.
The psalms of the Old Testament are filled with words of longing for God’s saving grace in the midst of our troubles. Psalm 121 asks, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where shall my help come?” And ends with the reassurance that God watches our going out and coming now and forevermore.
Like a garden in the winter, when all life appears to be absent, new life is beginning deep within. God reaches into the depths of our soul and restores us, at times so slowly that we do not notice. Our God is a God of life and of new beginnings. From this time of dormancy, something new will come.
Life will indeed return, although it will take time. Growth in a garden requires the passage of time, as does our heart. What grows may very well be different – a planting of new possibilities, a harvest of new dreams. Our hope lies in skillful hands of the Master Gardener.