Worship is like gardening

One of the things I enjoy most is gardening and growing food. I’m a volunteer Master Gardener with the North Dakota State University Extension Service. I love growing plants. They amaze me. They start from seeds—sometimes tiny and small, sometimes big—but somehow, contained in that seed, are the blueprints and the nutrients needed to make life happen.

But even though that seed has everything it needs in it, it won’t grow until it gets the proper place, time and circumstances. There is a certain signal that prompts that seed to sprout. As a gardener, I try to replicate that signal; I try to give the seeds everything they need to start that process of sprouting. Many seeds are easy to sprout, but others take extra care. Some seeds need to be left outside in the cold all winter before they will sprout. Some seeds need to be burned in a fire before they will hear their signal that it is time. And others need to pass through the digestive tract of a bird or animal before the hard outer shell is dissolved, and the seed can begin its journey.

People are like seeds. We all need the proper set of circumstances to truly grow. It’s one thing to be alive and occupy space, but it’s another thing to truly live life and continue to learn and grow and share ourselves with others.

Some of us seem to thrive right off the bat. Others need time, and space, and some extra help. Some of us need a big push to leave our comfort zone and reach out to others, while others seem to live as though the whole world is their oyster. Some people need to get burned by life, or frozen in their tracks, or even be consumed by something that seems to be the end of the line, before they are able to truly grow in life.

Many of us are born, or planted, in the same set of circumstances, yet the result of our lives can be very different. There are things that stunt the life and growth of plants, just as there are things that will stunt human growth. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (NIV), Paul tell us “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

If you put a plant that needs a lot of sun in a shady location, that plant will never reach its full potential. It won’t get as big, and it may not bloom or produce fruit. However, if you place a shade-loving plant in an area that receives full sun, it will probably burn up and die. We are like that too.

If you stifle someone’s ability to grow and improve and learn, they will never reach their full potential. They may never bloom or produce the fruit that God wants them to produce. But give that same person the opportunities and tools they need, and they may grow so much you’ll barely recognize them!

There are some people who love to work behind the scenes; if you thrust them into the spotlight, you may lose them forever. We all have different personalities that demand different scenarios for life, just like each plant has certain requirements for it to grow as well. I think that God gives each one of us a talent, a passion, or a cause that we can use to glorify God. Just like every plant in the garden has a purpose, every person in our churches has a purpose, too. We need to encourage each other to grow and use those talents for the greater good of our communities.

There’s nothing better than talking to God in my garden. I can spend hours just being thankful for everything that God has not only given me personally, but everything He has given us all. I contemplate things I have read, blogs and personal stories, and ask God how this is relevant to my life, and our lives in the Church. How can I be a blessing to others?

I feel called to help feed people. I grow as much food as I possibly can in my half-acre yard. I grow for my husband and me, and our extended family. I grow for my friends and neighbors, and I grow for the local Emergency Food Pantry. Our Master Gardening group picks up and donates produce all summer, and that makes me feel like God is using me to bless others.

Some people don’t know how to grow food, and some people live in apartments where they don’t have the space. But I have a garden, and I have a dream to grow more every year; to have more to give away every season. Worship is like gardening, and gardening can be part of worship.

Jeanne Ahlers is a member of the Bethel Moravian Church in Leonard, North Dakota. She is a blogger, artist, and master gardener. Jeanne is also a small business owner and manager of the Leonard Convenience Store. Photos by Jeanne.

Our “Create in Me” series offers space for conversation about the ways people are shaping worship through writing songs and liturgies, using poetry and visual arts, and simply creating experiences in worship that encourage deepening faith.

Through articles, hymns and their backstories, and ideas for using worship resources in new ways, we are exploring, celebrating and sharing that diversity and including a variety of perspectives on worship, meaning and what inspires.

This month, Jeanne Ahlers, of Bethel Moravian Church, shares her thoughts on gardening as a form of worship.