The tomato seeds are still sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be planted. Here it is, way past the last expected frost date, and all the genetic material for juicy deliciousness is still in the form of tiny round, dry discs in paper packets.
This has been a busy spring for — it seems — everything BUT gardening. The delays in planting were begun in February, when a bad case of bronchitis set in. Given the choice of scrumptious heirloom tomatoes and continuing the privilege of breathing, I chose the latter.
Well, that was my reasoning for THIS year. Truth be told, a garden is very much like the Christian life; it is never truly completed and perfected the way it is supposed to be. Some aspects of our lives will be slower than others, and we may have seasons in our lives when we seem to be playing catch-up.
If the garden suffered this winter and spring, the house suffered even more. When the weather is sunny and there are no urgent tasks to be done, I spend my time and energy in the flower beds.
As I came across this verse of scripture, it was a beautiful surprise to me to see that the concept of working outside first is a biblical one!
“Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house” (Proverbs 24:27, NASB).
To me as a gardener, that seems pretty self-explanatory. What if I get my home picture-perfect, and serve my guests a bacon sandwich? Well, with no lettuce and tomato, there will be no BLTs. And in Bible days, there would be no meat for the sandwich either, since they were dependent on the crops in the field to feed the animals.
Since the Jews were forbidden to eat pigs, it would have been an empty sandwich, indeed. Oh, wait; the bread would have been delayed too, as the people were accustomed to growing their own grain for bread.
So what is the point being made? It could possibly have something to do with priorities. One might not be able to withstand hunger as well as a lack of adequate shelter.
In my case, I often put off other tasks in favor of tending my beloved flowers. That was surely not what the writer of this verse had in mind as it referred to “the field” rather than “the garden.”
We must discern proper priorities. Food first, shelter later. People first, garden later.
I had no sooner read this verse and jotted it down, and then gone outside to do some weeding, than a friend called and asked if her family might spend the night as they were traveling through the area.
Remember how I mentioned how neglected the house was? Oh, yeah. If the priority was to impress friends, the answer would have been “No.” However, if the higher priority for Christians is to serve others, the thing to do would be to put away the hoe and start vacuuming!
The result was a rich blessing to us in the form of some of the most polite, intelligent, and funny children gracing our (messy) home. They especially enjoyed the taste of honeysuckle! So the garden was a blessing to them a little, too.
And so it was that my “garden first, house later” approach to task assignment got turned on its head.
As we strive to keep our priorities straight, may God grant us wisdom. Life is a messy business.