I hadn’t realized just how much I longed for the reawakening of spring until it came. With each deep draw of damp-earth scent into my lungs, something in me came alive again, something I didn’t know had gone dormant. Over these last few weeks, I’ve walked around our yard, hungrily searching for new evidence of spring’s relentless advance—the green haze of fresh leaves, buds promising flowers yet to come—and with each sign of life, there’s a swell in my chest of something that feels like joy—and hope. They preach to me—this death will not last forever; life will always have the final word; resurrection is coming.
As soon as the ground thawed, I was back in our tiny garden. My daughter helped to plant the first seeds. She marched out of the garage with a red plastic shovel in one fist and a yellow one in the other, with a toddler’s earnest enthusiasm. Announcing she needed “one more thing, Mommy,” she ran back in again, this time emerging with a plastic bucket. I lifted her over the chicken wire fence and released her into the enclosed rectangle of dark earth. We used the bucket to collect the weeds we pulled—and some extra scoops of dirt from her shovel, because what could be more fun than moving dirt from point A to point B?
Slowly, the ground cleared and softened, turned up by many shovelfuls, sifted through fingers. I made a narrow indentation down the length of one side of the raised bed with my finger, then poured seeds gently into my hand. Spinach. Lettuce. Radishes. She asked for some as well, her tiny palm upturned. They more-or-less hit their mark and were covered, more-or-less, gently by a thin layer of earth. She continued to shovel, carrying dirt dutifully from one end of the garden to the other, until she was exiled after digging up our newly planted seeds a few too many times.
That day, life felt easy. Faith was as simple as breathing. And delight shimmered with each glint of the sun and each prattling word from my daughter’s lips. That day, I knew God was near. Tending with me, and to me. Cultivating with me, and in me. Caring with me, and for me. And in that moment, that was enough.
Meeting God in a New Space
For some time, I have not felt God’s nearness in traditionally “spiritual things” as I once did. I engage in rhythms of prayer and Scripture (I’ll confess, sometimes haphazardly) because I know I need them as fundamentally as I need to eat vegetables and exercise and take my vitamins. As with these other disciplines, there are times when these spiritual disciplines are more enjoyable than others, times when they come with more or less ease.
Finding the experiential aspect of my faith shifting and morphing in various seasons of my life was disorienting at first. If I’m completely honest, there are days it still is. I suppose I expected the life of faith to consistently bring with it certain feelings, and I connected that set of feelings to faithfulness. But adulthood has forced me to rethink this. I’m learning now that my feelings are not the ultimate litmus test of my faithfulness, and as my understanding of faithfulness grows wider, so does my expectation of where and how God may choose to commune with me.
If my spiritual director had asked my younger self to list the moments of consolation in my life over the last month, those moments when I have sensed God’s nearness, I would have instantly thought through my recent Bible reading, my prayer times, and the most recent worship service, and I would have felt guilty if something didn’t immediately come to mind. But today, I think of that moment with my daughter in the garden, and of many moments like it.
Prayer may feel different in this season, but with my hands in the dirt, I find the words. I rip out plants and tenderly nestle others in the holes left behind, and I pray for the Kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Scripture may feel different in this season, but I step outside, with my heart heavy laden, and as I walk along the garden, I hear in my mind words laid up there long ago, “Look at the birds of the air and at the flowers of the field—does your Father not care for you as well?”
In that space, with the flowers before my eyes, defiantly emerging from winter’s clutches, and with the sound of birdsong in my ears, I can hear. With each eager peek into my garden bed, with the sight of each tender shoot, with each act of gardening care, I rehearse faith and hope and love. In these quiet, embodied metaphors, I remember the hope that took root in me as a child. In that simple, everyday moment, I find comfort in God’s steady care. I know He is near. And in that moment, it is enough.