The World as Garden

Down the steep and winding steps, you find the garden. Here they quarried the stone that built the elegant house above for Dr. Plummer. Now the quarry is a green lawn, a pair of stunning fountains, a recessed garden set with rare trees and hardwoods. A secret path leads to another smaller garden and then into the woods. Walking here feels like a deep breath, a thirst-quenching sip of lemonade, the crisp bite of a summer watermelon. 

Why are gardens so enjoyable? I think it is because we have been gardeners from the beginning. Genesis 2 talks about the Garden of Eden, planted with trees both beautiful and delicious. Gardening was man’s vocation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis‬ ‭2:9).

I have always felt insecure about humans’ environmental impact. Are we the great despoilers of nature? Is every footprint the destruction of a delicate biome? I have never subscribed to the idea, though many from necessity or choice appear to, that the world is a limitless resource to exploit. However, would the world be better off without us? 

I think the answer is no. The world is a garden to be tended. There is a place in the garden for wilderness – but there is also a place for human dwellings, for human industry. The important thing is to not lose sight of the goal – our stewardship of creation. 

Now, are we doing a great job being gardeners right now? The Great Garbage Patch and the stark moonscapes of many former mines suggest otherwise. We have lost many animals to our gluttony; we have taken too much, too often. 

I think some people in their minds justify this because “Jesus is coming soon and it won’t matter.” But we can’t live that way; we can’t keep taking, taking, taking. There is “a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal” (Ecclesiastes 3:2b-3a). This is a time to plant and heal, a time to turn our quarries into gardens. This is our chance to turn things around!

The beautiful movie The Secret Garden is based on the book by Frances Hodgkin Burnett and shows how Mary, a bitter and lonely orphan, transforms and is transformed by her discovery of a hidden garden. I will close with one of its quotes: “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Are you being a good steward? How are you tending your garden?