With the increased heat of Texas summer fully upon us, I find myself—once again—investing more time in the maintenance of my yard. Diligence in evening watering is absolutely necessary lest my poor grass shrivels under the scorching heat of the sun. Added to my list of yard duties is caring for a little garden we started back in March; full of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, the occasional Bell pepper, and watermelon. If my grass suffers under such oppressive heat, my garden fares even worse. If I fail to water in the morning—just one day—it becomes withered and parched. Who can blame it? Even I wilt under the glaring death known as “Summer in the South” (I exaggerate, but only slightly).
As I pondered on the daily struggles of my little garden, how dependent they are on me for survival, I thought on how each person is responsible for a certain “garden” in their life. No, you may not wake up each morning to soak the tomatoes, but you do encounter people in your circle of influence who depend on you for their happiness and success. Each of these relationships—your spouse, your children, your coworker, your brother and sister in Christ—are in daily need of words of affirmation and encouragement. We chose, every day, to either invest and “water” them with these necessary elements of the good life, or to ignore them and allow them to wilt under the blistering heat.
This, I think, is an appropriate metaphor when speaking of our words and love we share with others. Jesus uses the parables of the soil in Mark 4 to describe God’s planting the gospel into our hearts; the Hebrews writer discusses the importance of soaking up God’s grace and displaying good works (Heb. 6:7-8); Paul described the Christian life as the patient, but diligent work of the farmer (2 Tim. 2:6). These rural pictures paint an image of what life really is about: investing and pouring out our lives—both words and deeds—into those around us.
Sadly, there are families and communities languishing under the heat of bitterness, malice, anger, resentment, and hate. Having gone so long without proper watering, they would most likely recoil at the graceful drum of mercy pattering on their heart. Eventually, they will waste away, becoming spiritual compost for the next person in line. I have little doubt that the bitterness and hatred we see plastered on the media is simply a symptom of an emotionally dehydrated heart; bereft of love, they simply don’t know how to express it to others.
Thankfully, the beauty of this metaphor is that it only takes one person to break the chain of neglect and revive the hearts of a destitute group. A parent who suddenly realizes how harsh they speak to their child, intentionally talks to them in a loving tone; a husband who has neglected his wife, starts bringing her flowers, kindling the ember of romance once again; an elder, aware of their lack of spiritual guidance, begins calling and praying with weak members. Incredibly, these actions are often contagious: people want to be refreshed, but also be the source of refreshment for others. So, in our present summer heat—and while under the heat of fear and hysteria of 2020—let us be sure to water the garden of people that surrounds us with encouragement, kindness, love, and truth.