July 11, 2012
Six weeks ago I planted my first vegetable garden. I started out with two 8×4 cedar raised beds and within a week added a third. Before I knew it I’d filled another two wooden barrels with a homemade bamboo trellis stuck in the middle for beanstalks. Unable to tame my ambitions I created a rather low-class bed outlined with old bricks I’d found by my fence for a couple more plants. (After you’ve experienced the price tag on cedar, you move on to junky things like stuff you find on the side of the road or in your yard.) One month later I dug an even lower-class hole, no cedar or brick this time, and thrust two more plants into the soil. No patch of lawn is safe from my shovel. I blame Marrianna, an heirloom tomato expert who sells her seeds all over the world. When I visited her farm with speaker/author/seasoned gardener Lisa Harper, it pretty much caused me to lose my mind, to break the number one rule for new gardeners which goes something like, “With everything you have, fight the tendency to go big your first year.” I think this means do not plant seventeen tomatoes, five peppers, two okras, three squash, three zucchini, two cucumbers, one jalapeno, two eggplants, and three different bean varieties out of the gates. (Just speculating here.) The good news is that everything is growing quite well with the exception of some blossom end rot on my tomatoes; a troubling brown mushy spot on their ends that I’ve read can be caused by either watering too much or too little. Wow, that is helpful. Other than that and a couple squash bores, so far so good. A couple of days ago I had my first (what we will refer to as) garden moment. I harvested my first round of actual vegetables. Dinner was sparse but magical. I’d been part of the growing process and somehow this made every bite sweeter, fresher. The idea of bearing fruit is a well-known biblical concept to me, but one that has taken on color and texture now that I’ve been more intimately acquainted with what it takes to bear fruit. Now that I’ve planted, grown, cut and eaten. In John 15:5 Jesus speaks these words, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” Few gifts are greater than the ability to bear fruit, to reproduce, to leave a legacy that outlasts our lives, to multiply. When I first put my tomato plants in the ground I read in one of my gardening magazines that it’s possible to groom vibrant vines with rich green leaves whose heights will stun your neighbors—because gardening is a little about this—but, that bear no fruit. I gasped. What’s the point of the ultimate tomato plant without the joy of slicing up an afternoon caprese salad, blending up a batch of salsa, or canning next winter’s sauce? That we may bear much fruit. After all these years of being a follower of Christ, I care less about how fancy my Christianity looks, how far my “righteousness” echoes, how long the vines of my reputation reach. I want my life to bear fruit, and no little amount. I want the kind Jesus promises, the much kind. The variety that lasts, multiplies, reaches into the eternity of His Kingdom. This fruit is born not out of pompous deeds or flashy religious words, but from the humble position of simply remaining in our Savior. The sacred place where He receives the glory and we bear the fruit that is not of this world. Fruit that will last. Bend into the True Vine today. Hide yourself in Him. Remain there. And in a little while…fruit.