Soul Soil, Church and Garden

Soul Soil, Church and Garden February 29, 2012

Last weekend, I pulled a couple of nice fat green onions from the garden to put in a pot of soup.  I’d planted them last fall, and enjoyed watching them grow, preparing to give themselves away in flavor and nutrients.

As I chopped them up and dropped them in with the other vegetables, I thought, as I generally do, about the connection between the garden and the church.  Both take so much good preparation and much labor and the results are always mysterious to me—and generally wonderful.

My kind husband has put hours of back-breaking work into preparing the vegetable beds.  The soil is immensely rich and easy to dig now.  It seems full of life, hope and potential.

Even with all this preparation, I know that many of my gardening plans don’t turn out exactly as I envision.  One year, the tomatoes will cover my countertops and not a single cucumber will grow; the next year, I might have hundreds of cucumbers, and sad and fruitless tomato plants.

This year looks like a bumper crop of onions, but the garlic is questionable.  Cilantro is growing wild everywhere, offering lovely fragrance—and I wonder if basil, which usually reseeds itself exuberantly, will decide to stay dormant.

Yes, it is always a mystery, and that’s OK:  gardening is a place for me to contentedly get dirty and spend a few hours in physical labor and soul work, on my knees both in prayer and in hopeful planting and weeding.

Something that always strikes me about these hours out there is the big delay between planting and eating: slow food at its best.

Slow food is a growing movement (a slowly growing movement, I might add) as a pull in the opposite direction from our fast food lives.  It’s a way of life, of seeking to appreciate the time it takes to produce not only the raw ingredients for a meal, but also the time it takes to cook a meal and set a table.

The pinnacle of the slow food movement is extended time taken to eat the meal, slowly, savoring each bite, gaining awareness of the blessing of food, and the enjoyment of eating this way in the company of others, a shared experience.

How much connection I see there with the church. It takes much time and much work to create good “soul soil” so the fruit of goodness can grow.  The Scriptures call these things our spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I long for all of those to be fully evident in me.   Occasionally, I see them in all their glory, ready to harvest and feed others.  Other times, I’m back to needing some good soil preparation and freshly sown seed or seedlings.  I’m guessing I’m not alone in those cycles.

With the slow food movement, the shared meal, enjoyed slowly with different foods ripening in different seasons, seems sacred to me:  a way to thank God for abundant harvest and also to be like God when preparing a table for others.

With the slow soul movement, we do the same: not insisting that all be ripe and ready for harvest at the same time, but doing the nurture and work necessary to encourage healthy growth in all.  When we connect with one another around the sacred table at church, commonly called the communion table, the joy of that special meal can envelop us all, no matter where we are in the ripening process.

Those are good moments, sacred and savored.  They offer a taste of heaven.

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