I have been totally wowed these last few months as we turn the corner from Winter to Spring and Spring to Summer in Australia. Spring is my favourite season (OK, maybe a very close tie with Summer), when I seem to feel God’s presence and promise of new beginnings even more keenly.
During my prayer time outdoors recently for example, my every revolution around the garden was a revelation: there was a new flower or bud I had not seen before, in came an intriguing fragrance wafting through the air, or off I went into la-la land longingly looking at my new baby strawberry plants in the hopes that they will produce abundantly sweet fruit to eat.
So there I was again, in a position where I just could not focus on my prayers at hand! What to do? Well, I marvelled and prayed. The sky was so blue and the sun so warm, why not indulge in His handiwork? I examined patterns on plants as I prayed, so intricate and detailed – how could you not believe in the Great Artist behind it? I breathed in the intoxicating smell of Spring more deeply. I felt the warm fur on my dog who had landed with bounding aplomb beside me for a belly rub. This is creation. All of it.
Ours is the God who designed every bit of it. The teeny tiny plants, the huge blossoming varieties, the strange shady ones in the corners, the common herbs, and the grand old roses – all of them so lovely and unique in their own ways. Much like humanity, isn’t it?
And what of the flowers? Where do I start? Did our Lord not say:
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)
Indeed, this comes to mind as I drink in the gorgeous white cluster of Pope John Paul II roses. And as they grow and start to age, their fragrance actually intensifies – what does that tell you about our lives? We become richer and wiser with experience, insight, and knowledge. Society can learn so much from nature about respect for our older citizens.
I also believe that God demonstrates His sense of humour through creation. For example, laughing animals such as kookaburras and hyenas, or the intriguing colourings on animals which are disguised to confuse their predators, or even their owners. When my dog first came to us I spent some time trying to wipe the white ‘paint’ off the tip of his tail and wondered how in the world he had managed to so accurately dip it into paint in the first place. I then realized that his white tinge was actually part of his hair! How curious and wonderful of God to design it so!
Gardeners have a special vocation and partnership with God. Indigenous peoples across the world, and especially the Aboriginal people of Australia, also have a strong bond with the earth and its care. We are all custodians of hope. Every time a seed or plant is put into the ground, in goes the belief and confidence that life and growth will take hold and flourish. The act of perpetuating God’s creation and the expectation of bearing results for the benefit of the world are very real. A gardener’s heart is linked to God, to His gift of beauty, and to belief in the earth’s genesis in His first act of creation because “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
God uses creation as His artist’s palette – have you seen the volcano plant erupting with its bright fiery orange flowers on long stems? Or the many beautiful fuchsia varieties with flowers like dancing ballerinas? How about the bleeding heart plant which is named because its flowers look like a heart with blood dripping from it? Or, of course, the crown of thorns plant which reminds us of Our Lord’s crown during His Passion?
God teaches us many lessons about life and its cycles through His creation – from birth, tenacity through the seasons, and ultimately death and new beginnings in eternal life. Throughout your months and years, when your days turn from Summer to Autumn and again to Winter, notice how your seasons, cycles, and the leaves in the book of your life turn from green to brown, to gold, and red. Feel and hear the crunching of nature beneath your feet and how the air, and sometimes your life, is tinged with coolness. This, too, is God’s message of love – the beauty of gracefully ageing into the seasons when He whispers: ‘come inside, rest for a while, and sit with Me’.
And as every regular gardener also knows, there comes a time when no matter how hard you scrub, the dirt seems to remain permanently under your fingernails. God’s a bit like that you know. He so much wants to get under your skin (or your nails), in a good sense, and be a part of your life that no matter how hard you brush Him off, or wash Him away (i.e. turn away from Him), He can’t leave you. Correction – He just won’t leave you.
There is a lot to deal with in the world at the moment, so it is crucial to take the time to switch off and reconnect with the God of creation, in creation. Observe the smells and study the shapes and colours that He has formed out of love for you and me. Notice the care He has taken in designing the flowers – each petal – and the veins in the leaves. It is ours to relish and care for.
Having time outdoors in gardens and in the act of gardening is, for me, a time of meditation and marvelling at God’s beautiful messages of love scattered around for us to enjoy. Tapping into God’s life energy and beauty in the plants and creatures, in the doves that flock to be fed and the nests they create for their new families in our trees, and in my cheeky little four-legged fur-boy – is a crucial part of my faith.
Remember that nature equals hope. Nature equals nurture. Nature is God saying ‘I will never give up on You’. If He cares about the little ferns, the tiny ants, the mighty whales, the towering trees, and the worms working deep below the soil, how can we not believe that He cares for us too?
We may not hear or see Him, but the evidence of God is ever speaking, and ever sparkling, everywhere. Look up. Take notice. Get amongst it. Let us always be distracted by His handiwork!
Image courtesy of Yvonne P.