25907_000_006How could tending a garden teach me about God?
As a young girl, I spent my summers with my grandma, and she spent her time in her garden. She didn’t have a nice, small garden like other grandmas. She had a “work-hard-and-eat-well” garden. We would get up before the hot California sun and spend hours weeding, watering, and eventually picking. The only thing that kept me going was that once in a while, a fresh breeze rejuvenated us.
My grandma talked a little and worked a lot. I followed her around the garden, but my mind was usually somewhere else. Gardening was for grandmas, I thought. But her smile told me she was pleased as she surveyed our work. She made me promise that I would follow the counsel of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) and plant my own garden someday.
Sowing Seeds of Obedience
Eventually I had a family of my own, and I decided to plant a garden—admittedly not out of excitement but at least out of a desire to obey the prophet and to keep my promise to Grandma. As soon as I dug up a small area of ground, however, I realized I hadn’t paid very close attention in my youth. What had come so easily for Grandma now seemed impossible for me. Did I pick a good location? How should I arrange the rows? How close should I plant the seeds?
I tried to dismiss the need to plant a garden. “What’s the big deal, anyway? I can just buy this stuff from the store and save myself all of this work,” I thought. But I had made a promise. I called Grandma for reminders and tips, and I began to have a fresh remembrance of our summer days together in the garden. At first, nothing happened—all that work and nothing. But finally, after several weeks, a few plants struggled through the ground and began to grow.
Weeding Out Distraction
Then the kids got sick. Life got busy. The dog ate some of the young plants. Other things seemed more important, and I didn’t think much about my garden until my grandma came to visit. I cringed when she asked about it. The walk to the garden seemed long and terrible. When we went outside, I was completely embarrassed by what we both saw. The plants had withered down to nothing, and the weeds were choking out the vegetables. Grandma’s silence spoke volumes to me. With disappointment in her voice, all she could say was, “You have neglected your garden.”
I had neglected my garden—and my promise to her. I had not cared about my garden until she was there. I knew I had disappointed her. I thought of a thousand excuses, but none of them mattered. “It’s hopeless, Grandma. I’m hopeless!”
She looked at my garden intently. She looked at me and then looked back at my garden. “No, it’s not hopeless,” she said with a comforting smile. “I think there is something in here worth saving.” Her eyes settled on a scrawny, pathetic-looking green bean bush. I don’t even like green beans very much, but that was the plant she thought would survive.
I would have given up, but Grandma doesn’t give up on anything or anyone. She knelt down beside the little plant and began to clear away the weeds. She instructed me about what I needed to do. This time I listened carefully. Grandma believed that this green bean bush had value. It was important that it lived. I began to care about it too. I did not want to disappoint her again.
It took days to bring that little plant back to life and weeks of nurturing and care to keep it going. I’ll never forget the day I picked three green beans from that bush—I was thrilled!
Learning about Gardening—and God
Now, many gardens later, I understand what my grandma told me after that experience: “You will understand more about God if you tend your garden.”
I wondered what she meant by that. But then I remembered back to a time in college when my life looked like my neglected garden. I was withering. My gospel roots were not very deep. In the garden of my life, weeds were growing everywhere because I had neglected scripture study and prayer and had let other things become more important. I went to church, but I didn’t really listen. I made some mistakes, and I knew I needed help.
The walk to the bishop’s office—like the walk to the garden with my grandma—seemed long and terrible. I was embarrassed by what my life had become. I felt I was hopeless.
My bishop listened. He looked at me intently. Finally, with a comforting smile, he said, in effect, “No, it’s not hopeless. I see something in you that is worth saving.”
I began to understand that the power of the Atonement could restore my withered life. I came to know that Heavenly Father doesn’t give up on anybody, and I determined to try my best to not disappoint Him.
Just like the revitalizing breeze I had felt in my grandmother’s garden, the repentance process restored me. Through the blessings of the Atonement, my withered hopes slowly came back to life. It was a blessing—a blessing just for me.
I now realize that I am responsible for my garden—the garden of my life. It takes daily effort to grow closer to the Lord, just as it takes daily effort to keep a garden. Repentance repairs our mistakes, and the Atonement allows us to keep trying. I have learned that the fruits of the Spirit cannot be purchased from a store; we have to grow them ourselves by following Him.
I have never forgotten how pleased I was to see those three green beans on that scraggly bush long ago. But more important than saving the plant, I came to understand that the Lord sees someone worth saving in me.
The Law of the Harvest
“If a seed can multiply thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold, what then is my potential if I would but cast out the stones, clean out the thorns, cultivate deeply into the soil for a good seedbed, irrigate, and nourish? It is then that I realize there is no limit to my potential so long as I conform my life to the Lord’s law of the harvest. Let me encourage you to draw close to the soil. Have your own experience in planting a garden. Then make application in your own life of this great principle of the law of the harvest.” Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Law of the Harvest,” New Era, Oct. 1980, 4.