So, my garden is in a new phase. It's straggly. My squash plants died back and I had to trim and clear out a lot of stalks. I'm harvesting cucumber, pumpkin, and tomatoes. But my carrots and watermelon aren't ready yet. Two of my four tomato plants are a blighty, gangly tangle. My dill and cilantro plant appear to have cross pollinated, don't even ask me what that's all about. And after a few days of rain the weeds have staged a takeover. It's a mess.
Today I went out armed and beat back the revolting army of weeds. I pruned some dead vines. Overall I attempted to regain order. Throughout the whole process, while standing on my head in the beating southern sun and humidity, with my hair in my face and ants crawling up my legs, I had company. Our small neighbor children, along with my daughter, were "helping".
As I surveyed my garden, and watched the children spray each other with the hose and pick anything they could get their hands on, I contemplated the course of this enterprise. Where had I gone wrong? How could I improve follow through and productivity? Had I accomplished my goals? What had I learned? Was it worth it?
The parallel between my garden and ministry was striking. So often the garden/program itself becomes so important we don't realize adjustments are necessary. I really need to remove my old tomato cages and re-stake my plants. Old squash plants and pumpkin vines need pulling up; underneath new growth is visible. And I need to consult my gardener's manual again for instruction. That's true in ministry too. Sometimes frameworks need to change and old forms need to be scrapped to make room for new growth. Adjustments need to be made and the manual consulted.
It's wise to learn from, take responsibility for, and then not repeat mistakes. It's also important to take time to enjoy the squeals of laughter and curious faces of our "helpers". So often in church ministry - programs, the building, and budgets - are valued over people. People are messy. My garden serves me and serves as an opportunity to draw my neighbors in, if it takes top priority over them it has to be put in it's place. The same is true at church. The newcomer, unseasoned and raggedy, eager to help, matters. Sometimes programs have run their course, have grown gangly, and stopped producing fruit. Sometimes we have to remember why we do what we do and put people back in their proper place.