Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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The Reason for Garden

April 14, 2021

Jordan Durbin


But Why?

My mama used to make us cut the grass with scissors.  For real.  My parents have about ten acres under the Georgia sun, but lest you think she was maniacal, we only had to cut the grassy edges of the garden beds with scissors.  But it was a big garden.  We usually came away with blisters.  I thought it was because she really loved the neat, manicured edges we gave to her garden.  Once I had kids, I realized how far down the list of her reasons that must have been!  For one, there’s no way we trimmed that neatly, but mostly it kept us busy and off the freshly mopped floors of her house for at least an hour.  I can’t say that this particular activity was especially good for our sanctification, but it taught me a priceless lesson in learning to pay attention.  To try to keep my lines straight, to watch for encroaching weeds, and to care about little things because they make a difference. 

I’ve noticed a broad shift in the ways that I think and live in the past year, and it feels like my heart is undergoing a deeper awakening to the moving of the Creator than ever before.  I’ve always looked for and found the working of God in unexpected places, but suddenly it seems that I cannot help observing His imprint in even the smallest details, like grass trimmed with scissors.  Where I once looked for the lengthening daylight and warming weather as signs of spring and signals to start celery and peppers in every sunny window, I now see His hands stretching those days and His breath thawing the ground.  We think we are such clever, scientific creatures, far advanced beyond our ancient ancestors who attributed favor or failure to deities unseen.  But I think they knew a thing or two we’ve forgotten in our accumulated knowledge – that every good and perfect gift does indeed come from God. 

I Hereby Solemnly Swear . . .

This sovereignty I speak of can be conflicting to some.  It begs the question of why.  Why strain and struggle towards or away from anything if the results are already in the mind of the Father?  Why plant and prune and pluck if God cares for even sparrows and lilies?  It’s a good question, and I know that because even Jesus asked it!

I’ve always been a big fan of why.  It’s settling and informative.  Why reveals reason, and reason pushes me towards action.  Why is a foundation stone.  And while there are plenty of scenarios in life that leave us void of the answer to why, I’ve learned to trust that when the answer to why is not to be found, it’s because it’s shrouded by a Being much wiser than I am.  The Father is asking me to trust that some things are above my pay-grade.

This springtime seems to stir the question of why in me more deeply than ever. 

Gardening is something I’ve done for most of my life without questioning why.  It’s one of those joyful, brilliant things that need no explanation.  But this spring, I found myself asking why I do it.  It’s a question a lot of us have been asking: what if the work I’m doing doesn’t bear fruit?  Is it still valuable? 

Yes.  A thousand times, yes.  I will live and move and work like a true Narnian even if there is no Narnia.  Even if I don’t receive the harvest I’m expecting, I will garden.  I will put seed to soil, water to seed, and watch for growth in all the places life happens.  We were originally placed upon this earth as tenders, and I believe that is where we grow the best.  But, as my husband has said many times, souls are forgetful things; they need to be reminded.  So here I am staking my claim on the work of a gardener, even if it’s not always in soil and seed, I am laying out lines for the truest things I know.

A Gardener’s Creed

I believe that God began and will complete all things in a garden, and that some of His truest, best work is still meted out in gardens.  I believe that He often still walks with us in the cool of the evening in our gardens.

I believe that every grain of soil is hallowed ground, worthy to be revered since it is born from the breath of the Almighty Creator.  I believe that every turn of the spading fork into broken or unbroken soil reveals places in my own heart that need to be stirred up to love and good works.  I believe that every shovel full of compost or manure added to planting ground is a picture of fertilizing my soul with the good soil of the Gospel of Christ and the deep truths mined by minds much deeper than mine.

I believe the ordering of a garden is the same work of ordering the seasons of my life.  It is a labour of setting to rights what will flourish in each season, protecting tender shoots until they are strong enough to stand on their own, clearing debris that would harbor deadly blights and small but ravenous predators, and making space for growing strong and healthy crops. 

I believe that every planted seed is the work of redeeming a world that lies under a curse; that every time the ground is broken by a sprouting flower or vegetable or tree, it is taking nourishment from what is broken and turning it to good fruit, to harvest, to beauty.  Every life, even vegetation, is a story that the curse of death will not always win, but that Life itself is at work to bring even death to an end.  I believe that to plant a seed in unseen places and trust it will burst with life teaches me to trust in the unseen God, breathing life into my heart. 

I believe that every pruned branch is a reflection of weights that need lain aside or sin that so easily besets my heart and need to be removed.  I believe that the burning of dead and diseased branches and the spreading of those ashes will produce a stronger tree and a wiser gardener.

I believe that at the end of all things, the harvest is more than the fruit or flowers that are brought into the storehouse.  The harvest is one of learning, listening, and love.  It is a harvest of restoration and the redemption of all things and hopefully, of righteousness.  It is a harvest of next year’s seeds, next year’s hope, next season’s growth.


I believe that every garden in every season is a picture of the Gospel.  It is written into the soil, the seed, the branch, the fruit, the blistered and bloody hands of every gardener, the aching back, the torn open ground, the pruning, the planting, all of death and life, proclaiming the truth, goodness, and beauty of the old, old story of grace. 


I don’t know for sure, but I feel like awakening is always prompted externally.  Even if it is something as small as a shift of light or the scent of brewing beverage, I’m just not sure we wake ourselves.  It seems rather like the working of the Spirit, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” John 3:8 ESV.  So it is with every slumbering thing that rouses. 

With the coming of spring and the awakening of the earth, we don’t have to look far to find the story of creation and redemption.  It is in every unfurling sweet pea tendril, each nest full of robin’s eggs, all the breaking ice giving way to the rushing waters of streams and rivers.  As one of my favorite authors and people, Helena Sorensen, once wrote, “We don’t need allegories, friends.  The Story is everywhere.”

We just have to be awake to hear it.

The featured image is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.


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  1. Adam Nettesheim says:

    Wow Jordan. Yes. Thank you for tending this piece, and sharing the harvest with us. This is remarkable.

  2. Emily says:

    My girls and I will be first time gardeners this year. I’m only doing it because my oldest wants to give it a try but your words have me excited about the experience of watching God work in the soil this summer. Thanks for a different perspective ❤️.

  3. Jordan Durbin says:

    Emily! I’m so excited for you your girls!!
    May your tomatoes be abundant and your corn be sweet!! I’d love to hear how your garden grows.

  4. Jordan Durbin says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words! May there be an abundant harvest in your life, too!

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