By Andy Wade –
Over the past few years I’ve been exploring the idea of gardening with God and neighbor in mind and what it means to move from boundaries to hospitality in the garden.
This has been a profound journey of baby steps that has opened my mind, as well as our front yard, to a deeper level of sharing the hospitality of God.
Back to my question, “What does resurrection mean for my neighborhood?” If I stick with the narrow view of Jesus’ death and resurrection, then, for my neighborhood, it simply means figuring out how to get more people on the bus to heaven. But in the context of the larger story of God, resurrection is about God, through Jesus, drawing the whole creation together (Eph. 1.9-10, Col. 1.19-21, Rom. 8.20-24). Jesus is the Prince of Shalom, the Great Reconciler, the healer of our brokenness, and the one who makes all things new.
As I continue to ponder these deep, theological concepts, I’m tempted to just stay there, in my head, marveling at the greatness of God. But that does little for my neighborhood. Instead I’m forced to ask, what’s going on in my neighborhood? What good is already happening? Where are the points of brokenness, even division? Are there deep hurts or isolation? As I ask these and other questions then I can look back at my yard and ask, how can this be a place that fosters healing, reconciliation, friendships and support. In short, how can this become a garden of shalom where people, animals, and nature can flourish in the newness made possible in Christ?
These are big, potentially overwhelming questions. Sometimes when my mind goes in this direction, I either become trapped in heady theological gymnastics, or I become paralyzed by the seeming enormity of it all. But yesterday as I sat in my church’s Easter worship service, an image came to my mind. It was of a kayak quietly cutting through glass-like water. In its stealth-like movement it would be easy to miss, but behind this kayak was a wake. Not a huge wake, but rather small, gentle ripples slowly expanding across the water all the way to the shore on either side. Most of us are like that kayak: small, unassuming, often unnoticed, yet called to move through life in such a way that in our path we leave an ever-expanding wake of God’s shalom. Perhaps this is what my garden is to be.
I don’t have this shalom garden all figured out. In fact, I doubt it will ever be finished since the neighborhood, the needs, and my own involvement are constantly in flux. In fact my beginnings have centered, in a way, more on what needs to change in me to make shalom in the garden a reality. I’ve needed to move beyond the borders of public and private – mine and yours. I’ve needed to take little steps in discovering how I can be a more hospitable neighbor. I pray that in the midst of these personal lessons a small ripple of shalom develops.
This year, as I expand our Little Free Library, cultivate our free sun tea and herb garden, and share starts and cuttings with the neighborhood, I pray I may also gain a deeper understanding of the needs in our community. Hospitality is a doorway to friendship and healing, and it’s a doorway that seems to get bigger as we open ourselves more and more to the fullness of the resurrection.
Here is a short video I created a couple of years ago that shows the beginnings of the garden journey I’ve been on. Below the video I have few questions to stimulate your own imagination about how to garden with God and neighbor.
- Do I know my neighbors?
- Is there a sense of trust in my neighborhood?
- Does my neighborhood feel welcoming or do we live more in isolation from one another?
- In what ways does my front yard communicate welcome and hospitality?
- In what ways does my front yard create barriers, both physical and emotional, to hospitality?
- What is one thing I could remove from my yard to make it more welcoming?
- What is one thing I could add to my yard to make it more welcoming?
- How does my yard express both care and welcoming to people as well as God’s good creation?
- What is one thing I could do this month to foster a deeper sense of community in my neighborhood?
- Who are the most likely neighbors I could conspire with to foster more joy, celebration, and friendship in my neighborhood?