Spiritual Practices for an Accelerating Age #4: Use Your Hands to Grow or Make Something

In some recent posts, I’ve referred to the fact that this year for the first time we planted and grew vegetables. We didn’t plow up the backyard. Instead, we put together a variety of planters from plastic covered boxes, extra large ice cream buckets (that we got from a local ice cream shop), and other assorted planters and containers. We even hung planters from an old, re-purposed swing set. (I suppose I should point out that my wife did most of the work. But I helped! Honestly, I did!)

Earlier this summer we enjoyed a LOT of radishes and lettuce of various sorts. We had some peas, but though they were eaten, they never made it inside.

Some things we planted didn’t work out, like our broccoli and cauliflower.

Right now, it’s pretty much only tomatoes (cherry or grape size and the larger Scotia variety) and zucchini left as we finish out this first experience of gardening. You can see the ones I recently harvested above.

Now we’re working on our indoor salsa vegetable and herb garden.

There’s a particular kind of joy and satisfaction to growing your own vegetables. It might seem silly to many of you who have gardened like this for years, but it kind of brought out this childlike excitement in me. For instance, when we were away in August on vacation, the only part of our garden that I was worried about leaving unattended were our tomatoes, because they hadn’t yet ripened. But I was so glad when we got home to see that our tomato plants were doing well.

It helps that someone from our church did some watering for us while we were gone.

But what does any of this have to do with spiritual practices?

First, there’s this:

Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” And it was so. The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:11-12

Getting our hands in the dirt to cultivate vegetables is a way of participating in God’s creation. We’re called to do something with the world in which God has placed us. Think of what it says in Genesis 2:15: The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. This can mean many things, and one of them is actual gardening.

And doing so also means measuring time differently, because while I can go to Sobey’s and get a bag of produce in less than 30 minutes, it’s taken months to get our tomatoes. And of course, everyone with more experience in gardening than us also knows that different vegetables ripen and can be harvested at different times.

Whenever we try to grow or make something with our hands rather than buy it at Wal-Mart or from Amazon, we won’t have it right away. We have to learn to be content and patient with the process, with the time it takes for a plant to grow or a piece of homemade furniture to be built (though we’ve never tried this!).

Making or growing something ourselves slows us down.

It also focuses our attention and gets our brain working in a different way.

We perhaps have to learn new skills and habits. We didn’t know how to put together an above ground garden (or any kind of garden for that matter!).

Learning also includes learning from your mistakes. Like our cauliflower and broccoli.

It also means removing ourselves a little bit at least from our materialist, consumer, have it now culture.

Not to mention the joy and satisfaction of having made something with your own hands.

Doing so is also how we reflect God’s image into the world. Consider this:

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he placed the man he had formed.

Genesis 2:7-8

God himself got his hands in the dirt and sculpted the first human being. Even if this is anthropomorphic language, it still communicates the same truth. God created; we are called to create too. Learning to live into this reality as a given of our existence is definitely a spiritual practice for an accelerating age.

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