Today marks the day my Grandma Liggin died. We were close. Very close. When I was young she taught me about gardening. I can still see her sporting that sunhat while wearing navy blue pants and a sleeveless button up shirt (much like the one in the picture). Every now and then memories of us plowing rows for seed turns my thumb a little green and makes me want to plant a garden. Then I remember I’m too busy. Or too lazy. One of the two, any way.
I remember the fence she built around the garden. Yep, she built a fence. She was pretty amazing. Anyhow, the fence was meant to keep out unwanted critters. But there was a problem with the gate. It was a bit temperamental and liked to get jammed. On occasion the gate threatened to keep us out of the garden. Grandma would give it more than a few whacks with a shovel handle before we could enter (I never said she built a good fence).
I’ve been thinking about how Christ-followers are like gardeners rather than gatekeepers. When we love well and extend God’s hospitality we participate in cultivating human flourishing and home-making. The seeds of faith are plowed through obedience to Christ’s call to love God and neighbor, and the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control–grows from our lives and spills into the lives of others. Life together becomes life-giving. Any one can find a home with us and together we will learn to make our home with Christ.
Joys are celebrated. Burdens are shared. The unwanted are welcomed. The vulnerable are valued. The hurting are held. The sick are supported. Hands are washed. The widows are watched over. The displaced are defended. The fear of death is disarmed. This is human flourishing. This is home-making. It’s what happens when Christ-followers become like gardeners.
When we become like gatekeepers nothing new can be planted. Nothing new will grow from our lives or the lives of others. Many among us will feel alone. Many around us will remain displaced. The Church we call home withers and dies. Nobody is allowed in to God’s garden.
The Christian faith is a way of life connected to a story that begins in a garden (Eden), suffers in a garden (Gethsemane), re-birthed in a garden (Christ’s Resurrection) and ends in a gardened city (Revelation).
It seems we are better suited to be gardeners rather than gatekeepers.