When I was a kid, the most dreaded words ever were, “Okay, guys, we need your help working in the yard today.”
I hated yardwork with a fiery passion – it’s the only proper emotion you can feel towards things like thorns and bee stings and sweat mixed with dirt stinging your eyes. Let’s not forget about the horrors of next-day backaches and bruises and scratches down your arms and legs. Oh, AND you put in all that hard work to make things look pretty (or in my case, I settled for things looking decent)… and two weeks later, it’s like you were never there because all those weeds grew back, bigger and uglier than ever.
I disliked working in the yard so much that in high school I sweet-talked my mom into making a deal. I would clean the entire house for her, top to bottom, rather than pull and plant and mulch outside. I swapped my gardening gloves for rubber gloves and never looked back.
This week is Holy Week, and on Holy Thursday night, Jesus will go into a garden. The whole story started in a garden, remember? God set us in Eden and gave us everything we could ever want, but it wasn’t enough and we doubted His love (Genesis 3). We thought that He might be holding out on us, as if there were any good thing in this world that God wouldn’t want us to have. So we were kicked out of the garden and have been at war with the soil ever since.
But He is going to work in the garden again, for us. The blood, sweat, and tears Christ sheds for us in the Garden of Gethsemane this Thursday night have the possibility of transforming the landscape of our hearts. I know this week might seem like just another week – it’s not like you’ve never heard the Passion narrative before. But if we can do our best to enter in to what God has done (and is doing) for us, He can bring about something beautiful.
I’ve always hated gardening because it’s really hard work. It’s physically demanding. It’s time consuming. It’s never-ending. You’ve got to pull up the weeds before they choke out the healthy plants. And you need to prune and shape those healthy plants if you want them to bear fruit. You’ll have to haul out rocks and lay down mulch and don’t forget about the sprinklers, because without water, all of it will die. Gardening costs us – time, effort, money, pain.
We are all works-in-progress. I’ve got my own weeds that need pulling, rocks that need moving, branches that need pruning. I’m a mess. And as soon as I think I’ve got one thing under control, something else pops up and knocks me down again. But God is the most patient gardener, who never stops working so that I might become what He wants me to be, and bear fruit. He doesn’t care what it costs.
He wants to pull out the sin and plant more mercy, so He calls me to Confession. He waters the soil with never-ending graces through the Eucharist. His Word shines light that stretches me and helps me to grow. He cultivates virtue through my everyday life. He’s making me into something more beautiful than I ever thought I could be.
A beautiful garden can take your breath away. And nothing so beautiful comes without hard work. It will cost you both something, in blood, sweat, and tears. But know that He’s always willing to put in that work, for you.
This Holy Thursday night, Jesus is going back into the garden again. He’s offering His blood, sweat, and tears (Luke 22:39-44). I hope you’ll go into the garden with Him, and let Him go to work in you.