Monday, June 15, 2009

A Labor Of Love

For Dad, who learned from the Master Gardener.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

Spring had finally come. Not the early frost-breaking, slushy, and sloppy Spring, where each step on the thawing ground packs clay-filled mud on the bottom of your shoes and makes you taller with each step. The last drift of snow had finally thawed and blades of green grass poked their heads above the brown earth and reached toward the warmth of the sun. The bulbs that had been planted in the fall forced their first spike of life through cracks in the wet soil, defying the still-chilly nights and knowing their time had come to burst forth. The trees filled with birds who had been summoned back to their nesting grounds, their twitterpated voices calling to one another in search of a suitable mate. Spring had finally come, and with it life began anew.

Like the bulbs that had been awakened from their wintry slumber, a man stirs himself and gazes out his window at the garden spot that awaits him. Encouraged by the passing of one season to another, he dons his light jacket and boots and steps out into the orchestra of spring, ready to be a willing participant in writing the score of spring’s sonata of renewal. With a shovel in his hand, he looks upon the work needing to be done, assessing each weed, each dead stalk of crops past, a pebble or two that had worked its way to the surface, and hard-packed clods of earth that needed breaking and softening. Placing the sharpened shovel edge against the soil, he turns the first spade full. The earth releases its rich and pungent aroma into the spring air. Pausing for just a moment, he stoops down and cups a handful of the earth and brings it to his face, breathing deeply its sweet scent. “Here is life,” his mind tells him. “Here is where it all begins and ends, only to begin again.”

Pulling himself from his musings, the man sets himself to the task at hand: preparing the soil of his garden for the seeds he will plant. His calloused and time-worn hands lovingly toil as the sun passes overhead until at last, he has tilled and broken each inch of his garden spot. His shoulders ache from winter’s idleness - a reminder he is no longer a young man - and a blister appears on his palm as he places his tools back in the shed.

“Small sacrifices,” he thinks to himself, for his mind rushes forward to when his garden will only require his aid in pulling a weed that will choke, and feeding and slaking the thirst of his growing crops. He looks forward to the long summer days as he sits in his chair with satisfaction and a cup of coffee in hand, watching the seeds grow.

These small sacrifices will not go unrewarded, a voice tells him.

In his mind’s eye, he looks ahead to the fall when the garden’s bounty will be lovingly preserved in colorful jars and stored on shelves in the cupboard for winter sustenance. His mouth waters with the anticipation of the first bite of a sun-ripened tomato, a crisp and refreshing cucumber, and the sweetness of buttered corn as its juices dribble down one’s chin. There is much to be thankful for in the small sacrifices of a labor of love.

As his stout, but weary, legs carry him to the backdoor of the house, the man pauses and turns his eyes one last time on the freshly turned earth. The sun has reached its western bed behind the mountain, but its rays stretch up like arms in praise to the heavens, a reminder of its promise to return the next day. Looking up through the trees into the fading light, the man gives thanks to God for the changing of the seasons and for allowing him one more year of labor. He knows that there will be a time not so far away that he, too, will return to the earth from whence he came. Like the fruit that is yielded from his garden so lovingly planted, God will pick him from the vine of His garden and with gentleness and love untold, preserve him in His storehouses for eternity.

With a thankful and prepared heart, the man turns and enters his house, only temporarily closing the door to the garden outside. With his Lord by his side sharing in his work, tomorrow he will plant, the next days he will tend, until at last he can once again rest as one season passes to another.