Garden tools serve as handy metaphors for the disciplines of the faith. Just as tools help cultivate a garden, faith disciplines help us nurture a relationship with God. Though often they amplify the heart cry for God to fix things! Likewise, today’s featured tools help highlight and reinforce the cultivating, nurturing, coaxing, waiting, tending nature of growing a garden and growing a personal relationship the Lord.
Engaging God through “tools”—prayer, work ethic, humility, thanksgiving, to name a few featured in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible—starts out with things we can do, ways to be useful, productive, and take charge, seemingly in control. That is, we use the practices in attempts to grip, grab, and get a hold of ourselves…and of God… by our own hand. It is a good starting place, at least, coming to God and believing He has hope and possibility for difficult, dead-end circumstances or well-intended ambition.
However, in His mercy, God doesn’t leave us in such a stance, with such a mindset, as if we are the ones to direct, as if we can use Him to fix our problems and struggles, or to get ahead. The beauty of this metaphor is that while prayer, humility, works service, etc. can take on their own importance or ritual—our ability in these can carry us far enough to distract from growing a reliance and relationship with God—garden tools would never be confused with a garden itself.
Yes, it is obvious a weeder, snipper, or plant clip is not a garden; yet it may be obscure that a routine prayer or generous, charitable act is ungrounded in a relationship with God. Be on guard that as clay we don’t usurp the potter!
You turn things upside down. You think the clay is equal to the potter. You think that something that is made can tell the one who made it, “You did not make me!” This is like a pot telling its maker, “You know nothing.”
Isaiah 29:16 ERV
Full of grace, the Lord champions our turn toward Him and pardons our attempt to contain or dictate to Him, or act on His behalf—a reversal of the right relationship.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! … How gracious he will be when you cry for help!
Isaiah 30:18-19 NIV
He draws us through waiting, mostly, to grow our trust, companionship, and adoration in Him—to deepen and sweeten an intimate relationship.
I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 The Message
Ironically, disciplines expose our neediness: where we sought strength in hand, soon weakness disturbs. The practices of prayer, service works, fasting or other humility processes will move us across the threshold of DIY (do-it-yourself) strength through unsettling dishevelment if we work at them long enough. Paul pleaded (i.e. prayed) through his struggle with a “thorn in his flesh,” before the invention of thorn strippers, of course!
…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NIV
See Paul grow into acceptance of God’s way, of Christ’s presence lavishing his own, and of the lush land of God’s reliable love. The goal of faith practices is not to be a disciplined follower; the goal is to love the Lord.
And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us.
1 John 4:16 AMPC
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV
May we let garden tools lead us to trust in God’s deep, abiding love. Eventually, in season after season, we learn to come to the Lord with nothing in hand, expecting not to become handy in faith, but simply to come.
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, “Come!”
Is anyone thirsty? Come!
All who will, come and drink,
Drink freely of the Water of Life!
Revelation 22:17 The Message
For more devotions on faith practices, see the Garden Tools section of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, beginning on page a-17
Find a thorough, formal examination of spiritual disciplines at www.authenticdiscipleship.org
A heartfelt thank you to CobraHead, Corona Tools, and Global Garden Friends for your generosity to GWA: The Association of Garden Communicators…join us in Chicago this August to personally meet these innovative, amazing companies! #GWA2018
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm