Growing and outgrowing

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

When I learned that this month is National Garden Month (see www.nationalgardenmonth.org), I surprised myself by caring.

Until recently, my mom was the only gardener in the family, and she was all the gardener any family needs - "Ms. Green Thumb" personified. For her, roses bloom all summer, tomatoes grow to the size of baseballs, and green beans grow longer than garter snakes.

I, on the other hand, never liked to get my hands dirty, and the moment I was old enough, I fled to a large city where a sufficient supply of rich topsoil was not one of the things I had to worry about.

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But a few years ago, my husband and I moved to a much smaller city, into a townhouse with a small backyard. I doubt the previous owner spent much time in the yard because it was nothing more than a patch of dirt, a tuft of grass, and a shrub in a burlap sack, stuck in a corner waiting to be planted.

The shrub looked so sad in its sack that I eventually decided to plant it. I bought a shovel and a pair of gardening gloves. Then I dug into the dirt and discovered that our backyard sits on a rock outcropping, and the soil is only a few inches deep. So to plant the shrub, I would have to build a raised garden bed deep enough to cover the shrub's "root-ball," which was the part wrapped in the burlap sack.

Now I understood why the previous owner had shoved the shrub into a corner. And I shoved it right back. There was no way I was going to do all that dirty work to plant a shrub.

Still, the condition of the yard nagged at me. An idea started nagging at me, too: "We are all capable of more than we do."

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, wrote that sentence in her bestselling book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (page 89). Because she practiced what she preached, her life remains an inspiring record of a woman always pressing beyond accepted limits. For example, at age 87 she founded this newspaper.

Why did she insist that we are all capable of more than we do? I think it's because the capacities, abilities, knowledge, talents, and skill of our Father-Mother God are infinite. Because God, the divine Mind, "possesses of itself all beauty and poetry, and the power of expressing them" (page 89). Because God expresses His beauty, poetry, science, and art through each of us, His children.

These observations roused me to think of myself as something more than a person with an aversion to digging in dirt. In fact, as I thought more deeply about the matter, I realized that I had been placing far too much importance on my personal likes and dislikes. Everything had to be just so, and nothing else would do. I enjoyed doing this, but how could anyone enjoy do that? I realized that I needed to end this grip of personal preferences and admit that I am one of God's children, through whom He expresses His infinite variety and limitless goodness. I needed to expand my appreciation of God's vast and varied creation, and I needed to do more than I was doing.

As I dropped some carefully cultivated preferences and cherished opinions, I found that I could do more. I could build a raised garden bed and plant that shrub. I could patch and paint the kitchen ceiling. I could start a new career. My heart - and my life - began to better resemble the garden described by a hymn.

A grateful heart a garden is,
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.

Christian Science Hymnal, No. 3

I have now built raised beds around the entire garden, and I can grow my own flowers from seed. Although they don't yet grow as extravagantly for me as they do for my mom, I am growing, progressing, pressing beyond limitations that I had once accepted. And, what's more, I love doing it.

We can all do this. We can all drop our limitations and embrace the infinite possibilities of God. We can all grow lovely gardens of our own, in our hearts and lives.

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