I am not a gardener. My mother is a gardener with a green thumb, but I do not have that gift. In fact, even plants that are allegedly hard to kill like succulents and cacti are not safe in my care
Nevertheless, there are some success stories of thriving plant life in my yard. For instance, I have a couple of beautiful, flourishing lantanas. Every winter, after their flowers and leaves have fallen off and their branches are dry, dead twigs, I cut them all the way to the ground. It’s the only direct interaction I have then them all year.
And every year, they come back. All the way back – branches, leaves, flowers – to the full height or higher than the year before.
In my case, this can be considered a miracle. Because as I mentioned, plants tend to die in my care, or my neglect, or both. Yet these plants are thriving. There are people who are better at this than I am, and people who know the science behind how and why plants thrive or die in any given circumstance. They know what mysteries happen in the dark soil out of sight.
Yet it strikes me that no matter how much any of us know or how skilled at gardening we are, there is still a mystery to the life cycles of flowers and trees, grass or moss, vines and ferns. Part of the mystery is that the key action happens out of our control – seeds sprout buried in the soil, the sun shines or doesn’t, rain falls or doesn’t. It is probably best this way, a reminder that there is a lot in life that is out of our control.
Is it any wonder, then, why gardens and trees are so often used as images to help us understand God and our relationship with God? There’s a large part of it that is mysterious. That is not up to us.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how,” Jesus teaches in Mark.
Sometimes we imagine the kingdom of God being far off in time and place. In the sky and in the future. But here, we are offered a kingdom that is earthy and growing under our feet right now. It has been planted, it is germinating while we sleep and rise night and day.
Like the lantanas in my yard, we don’t need to know how this happens, only that it does. Even when we think all hope and life is lost, a miracle is sprouting.