(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones) I let the dog out on this beautiful Sunday morning as the sun was coming up, the birds were waking up, and the new flowers are starting to push their way up. I look across my yard to the unsightly large black spot next to the fence where I finally got to burn the annual Spring cleaning—leftover leaves, twigs and branches, and, yes, even the old Christmas tree. But I don’t have to see the blackened area to remember my efforts from the day before. My 50+ year old frame is reminding me enough! Initially, the left over burn pile looks like an ugly scar on my landscape, until I realize what it represents. This spot will be where I plant my tomato starts again this year. And they will become monster bushes due to the wonderfully fertile soil provided by the after effects of my efforts from yesterday’s hard work.
We know that burning adds the nutrients into the soil, and this can be likened to the process of consecration, A.K.A. dedication, of ourselves to God. (I like the word “consecration”. It’s a good old-fashioned churchy sounding word that’s packed with meaning.) It’s only when we are truly consecrated to God that we become pretty useless TO the world; that is, the world cannot use us for its own purposes, and we become liberated from the shackles of their devices, such as the need for popularity, status, wealth…fill in the blank. Not that these things are intrinsically evil, but the “need” for them sure is! Likewise, it’s when we are completely devoted to God—His honor, His plan and purpose, His timing—that we are, in a very real and spiritual sense, burned up to Him in a way that we become “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” described by Paul, and we become useful FOR the world in the way God intends. And lastly, if we neglect this consecration process, this burning sacrifice of our lives to God, then we can be assured that we will, indeed, be burned out by the world and its effects upon us.
Having said that, as I contemplate the black spot in my garden, several things come to mind:
Leaves: (many of which have been sheltering the gardens to keep the roots warmer over the somewhat brutal winter we just had) We also can tend to hide under some of our past comforts for fear of the winter storms in our lives Life is cold at times, bitterly so. We naturally seek to protect our inner selves. But I also knew it was time to rake away the leaves, because they were now preventing the full warming rays of the sun to nourish the new plants. Same with our souls.
Twigs and branches blown down by the storms which are no longer able to produce life: Left to clutter the yard, they will make it easier to trip and fall, and more difficult to mow, to play with the dog, and do the things that a yard is for. Like the personal offenses held onto and residual guilt feelings of my own past offenses forgiven, yard waste is simply in the way of progress.
Muscle aches from the effort: I can’t sit inside and expect it to just happen on its own. Similarly my personal cleansing is a cooperative effort with God. The word effort is important here.
My burn pile is ringed with stones and brick to contain the burning process: I also watch over it carefully, spraying outside the stones as need should the fire jump into the grass and spread where it is not appointed to go. Personal boundaries are important.
The ongoing process – just as each new season here in southern Missouri brings more leaves and twigs to be processed, so our lives are a continual cleanup project. Pull out the rake!