Till and Keep (Gen. 2:15)

“To work in a garden is to be surrounded by the mysteries of germination, growth, and decay, and it is to be overwhelmed by the gifts of raspberries, tomatoes, and onions that surprise us with their fragrance and taste. But it isn’t all pleasantries. To garden is also to be frustrated by the disease and death that are beyond one’s control and power. Where did this blight come from? Why won’t this seed germinate? A late frost again? The temptation is always to give up and walk away. But that isn’t really a viable option. If people are to eat, they must eventually return to the ground. […]

Gardening is one of the most vital practices for teaching people the art of creaturely life. With this art people are asked to slow down and calibrate their desires to meet the needs and potential of the plants and animals under their care. Gardeners are invited to learn patience and to develop the sort of sympathy in which personal flourishing becomes tied to the flourishing of the many creatures that nurture them. A garden, we might say, is a living laboratory in which we have the chance to grow into nurturers, protectors, and celebrators of life. This, I believe, is why the first command given to the first human being was to come alongside God the Gardener and “till and keep” the Garden of Paradise (Gen. 2:15). Gardening is hard and frustrating work, but it is not a punishment. To garden well – in the skillful modes of attention, patience, sensitivity, vigilance, and responsiveness – is to participate in the way God gardens the world.”

Norman Wirzba, “The Ground of Hospitality,” Plough Quarterly Issue 20 (Spring 2019), www.plough.com

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