I do the gardening at the OIKOS house but I'm not a gardener. Truthfully, I know more about the agricultural metaphors in the Bible than I do about actual agriculture. If I like the work, it is because I am a tactile learner who understands better and more quickly when doing something physical. Happily introverted, I need and enjoy long periods of meditation. The fragile, ephemeral beauty of tulips and roses fascinates me and teaches me something inexpressible about our extravagant Creator. Naturally, gardening has become a favorite metaphor for starting new churches. And The Gardener is to me a cherished image of my God, the worker.
This week, I plowed under the back 40. That is, the 40 plus square meters of weeds growing behind the house. The objective: a patch of neatly trimmed grass, graced on all sides by rose bushes. In my mind, I can already see the vivid color and feel the cool texture of the green blades brushing against my hand. To realize this vision, I can’t just throw the seeds out anywhere. Most of the work is to prepare the soil. To do so, I added a new power tool to my collection. It’s called a bineuse électrique in French and well represents the ever growing list of words that I have forgotten or never learned in English. Its purpose is to plough up and turn over the topsoil. My hands are so cramped up after being dragged around by this truly destructive force that I can barely move my fingers to type. That trusty bineuse tore through the earth, plowed under the weeds and spit out the rocks. To add to the violence, I sprayed the entire area with poison to assure the death of the uprooted weeds and sifted them out with a rake.
My point is this: the hard work of gardening is essentially destructive. A gardener tears down, uproots, and clears away what is old and dead or potentially harmful to his roses or his envisioned lawn. All of my gardening tools have an essentially destructive design: to uproot, to trim, to prune or to break up the ground. When gardening is done right, the destructive process always has a constructive purpose. The topsoil has to be well prepared before anything healthy can be planted in it. Rose bushes must be pruned if they are to continue to bloom year after year.
It occurred to me as I was tearing up our backyard that all change is initially a destructive process. The uprooting and the tearing down must happen before the planting and the building. Post-modern. Post-western. Post-reformation. Post-evangelical. Even good things in their time get uprooted and plowed under like historical compost. The terrain is cleared to make room for what will emerge from the dark, fertile soil. And the Gardener knows the right seeds to sow. He already sees what will emerge.
if you're wondering what's pumping into my ears from my i-pod: mule variations by Tom Waits. You gotta get behind the mule...in the mornin' time.