Long ago in kitchens and in kitchen gardens, secrets were shared that have long since been lost to those of us who have the luxury of casual gardening and exotic cooking. Long ago, life depended on wisdom and skill in the growing and cooking places; now, not so much. But if we search to find the nuggets of wisdom they all knew, might we not be more inclined than they--or at least just as much--to see the broader life analogy in the tending of creation? After all, our thoughts are less honed toward survival, less dulled by these presumptive and routine features of "living from the land."
Here is just one case in point. We have heard that we are "a letter from Christ...written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor. 3). Furthermore we hear that our light shines so brightly that mankind "may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) These words can have their own routine and presumptive qualities for the Christian, but they come alive when taken outdoors. In the garden we can observe the companion planting of trust and humility that makes the rare flowering of excellence seen in these verses a thing genuinely possible.
Look at the fragile lettuce plant: so quick and easy to grown, yet so susceptible to pests and heat. This time of year, lettuce "bolts" quickly. It bolts when heat triggers it to grow tall and to flower too quickly, making it inedible. All its own efforts go toward creating the seed of a new generation--as it perceives no great future for itself. But a good farmer of old knew he might get more edible leaves from that plant, so he took a harsh step. He dug up that lettuce plant, gave it an hour sitting in the shade, and then replanted it in the waning heat of late afternoon. He knew the lettuce would be forced to adjust to new soil before it could continue growing and would remain tender and sweet through that time.
If I am wise, I will see how I am like that lettuce plant. The heat sets in, and I look around to see others of my kind "going to seed" and turning bitter. But a few of "my generation" still exude a tender greenness in their lives. These are the ones who have submitted to the shock of being transplanted--not as seedlings, but as mature plants. These are the ones who know their current beauty came at a temporary cost to themselves, but was nevertheless solely due to the wise and masterful hands of a gardener who cared enough to fully extend their value.
May we all feel so well-tended!