“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 (NRSV)
Both of my grandfathers were farmers. My maternal grandfather had retired from raising cotton and vegetables by the time I got to know him. My paternal grandfather was a United States Postal Carrier for 39 years, who enjoyed gardening for many years that began with harvesting English peas, my favorite, in the early spring through harvesting turnips and turnip greens in the autumn. I never will forget the year I encouraged him to plant some zucchini and how the squashes were too small on Saturday but ready to be picked on Monday because they were huge. He was amazed at how productive those few plants were. Farming was the livelihood of my maternal grandfather and gardening was my paternal grandfather’s primary pastime. Though it was a lot of work, Papa thoroughly enjoyed plowing, planting and plucking! I suppose my interest and enjoyment of gardening comes from both of my grandfathers.
Last year I had my property re-landscaped, reducing the grass on my large corner lot by one half to two thirds. I also was concerned with decreasing maintenance and including Florida friendly plants on my property. Even though I have a lawn service that mows, edges, and does some weeding, there are other tasks that need doing to make my property as beautiful as it can be. Recently I have planted some cosmos, gaillardia, pentas, Shasta daisies, and sunflowers. Even doing my gardening in the early mornings, I come in drenched with perspiration and often with sore muscles that don’t get used with doing my pastoral work. The truth is, like my grandfathers, I enjoy farming or gardening! It is not work, but something that gives me pleasure! Right now my farming is limited to a nice herb garden and the gardening includes tending the various flowering plants and shrubs.
At this point in the Creation story, tilling and keeping the garden also was not work for Adam. God had already put in the garden and made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Adam and Eve could freely eat of all of the trees except one. Adam might have needed to do some weeding, some pruning, minimal cultivation, and harvesting. He did not have to be concerned with blights or diseases, irrigation, or pests. He did a little tilling and keeping (a hobby or maybe even work, but not back breaking, fatiguing, earning your living by the sweat of your brow work!) Life in the garden was good and it still is! You can sense God’s presence in a garden and you can derive great satisfaction from enjoying the flowers, fruits, and vegetables that you plant, tend, harvest, and maybe consume. Like me, you may discover that playing in the dirt is not work, but an enjoyable hobby, and in our bit of tilling and keeping we are temporarily transported back to life as it was in the Garden.
Creator God, we are centuries and miles away from the Garden of Eden. We thank You that we can sense Your presence in a garden and that we too can find enjoyment by tilling and keeping a garden. Help us to care for Your world in such ways that future generations may enjoy the earth’s beauty and productivity. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.