Summer vegetable seeds are beginning to sprout in my garden. Days of patient waiting for eruptions of bright green from the midst of dark, nurturing soil are now being rewarded. I anticipate summer’s fruitfulness, but we have a long way to go. Between now and first fruits will come weeks of faithful nurturing and tending of this garden.
My winter garden is different in some respects. I grow lettuce and other greens in cooler months, and fresh young leaves from those plants can be harvested relatively quickly. With fruiting vegetables, however, much more waiting needs to happen. Patience will be required.
The same is true of this Christian season of Eastertide. The glory of Easter day has come and gone, but the birthday of the church at Pentecost is still weeks away. In the meantime, small sprouts of joyful belief and fervent hope must be nurtured, fed, and watered.
How do we do that? A daily rhythm of reading and prayer is a common practice. My morning prayer takes place during an hour-long walk that encompasses prayerful noticing, deep listening, periodic poetry writing (I make notes using my phone for later transcription!), and occasional glorious surprises such as the cacti blossoms which are currently filling my Instagram feed.
Some days, growth doesn’t seem to be happening. We can’t tell that the plant is larger than it was yesterday, or last week. Yet growth is happening, perhaps deep in the rooted ground, where we cannot see. Perhaps growth is taking place in the subtle thickening and strengthening of branches so they can bear the weight of future fruit. Maybe our nurturing is leading toward that moment when the plant shifts from making more leaves to putting forth its first blossoms.
Some days, spiritual growth doesn’t seem to be happening either. We are short-tempered with a loved one, make an unwise choice and beat ourselves up about it, or can’t face one more day of doing our part to bring more love to a broken world. Yet the Easter message is still there, inside us, and it will be there again tomorrow. The subtle thickening and strengthening of our tended souls will help us bear the weight of the fruit God is asking us to bear. The time will come for a shift from leaves to blossoms, and then to fruit.
How do you nurture your spiritual Garden of the Heart? How do you faithfully keep up with the nurturing and tending, even when growth doesn’t seem to be happening?