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Inspect your spiritual garden

Yellow tulips

In these final days leading up to Easter, Rev. Faith Timmons encourages us to inspect the garden of our lives and identify anything that threatens destruction and death. Doing so will allow us to claim God’s promises and fully embrace new growth and new life.

Elder, Michigan Conference

A couple of years ago, on Resurrection Sunday, we made an amazing discovery before worship. My family awoke to tiny creatures hopping across the parsonage lawn. Amid the melting remnants of snow and emerging tulips, bunnies so small that they resembled mice emerged from a hidden hole in the front lawn. What a serendipitous surprise to find our yard speckled throughout with newborn rabbits flurrying!

Pagan origins of the Easter Bunny aside, this made for a marvelous morning. C’mon, what timing! However, these cute critters quickly caused problems by devouring my tulip bulbs. It wasn’t long before this furry fluffle destroyed our spring flowers. None of my plantings the previous fall brought forth flowering buds that grew to fruition.

I refuse to vilify those dainty little darlings for their dastardly deeds. I learned from the experience and switched to planting daffodils. Nonetheless, that Easter experience did make me think. I asked myself: How often have innocent aspects of my life hindered the fulfillment of my long-term goals and desires? It took physical effort and financial investment to plan an emerging garden. Now, there was no evidence. The fruits of my labor were gone.

If we are not careful, we can face the same fate spiritually. Seemingly benign situations or what appear to be nonconsequential circumstances can morph into conditions that threaten to undermine our development into mature disciples.

An important indication of Christian maturity is evidence of what the book of Galatians calls the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Aspects of our lives that initially seem beneficial can potentially prevent our souls from flourishing. I like how The Message presents Galatians 5:22-25: “But what happens when we live God’s way? [God] brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”

John Piper explains: “Love is the overflow of joy in God! It is not duty for duty’s sake, or right for right’s sake. It is not a resolute abandoning of one’s own good with a view solely to the good of the other person. It is first a deeply satisfying experience of the fullness of God’s grace, and then a doubly satisfying experience of sharing that grace with another person.”

Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond highlighted the spiritual fruit of joy: “No one can get joy by merely asking for it. It is one of the ripest fruits of the Christian life, and, like all fruits, must be grown.”

Methodist minister E. M. Bounds shared this profound insight in the nineteenth century: “Faith, and hope, and patience and all the strong, beautiful, vital forces of piety are withered and dead in a prayerless life. The life of the individual believer, [their] personal salvation, and personal Christian graces have their being, bloom, and fruitage in prayer.”

Unless we do so prayerfully, we may unintentionally embark on the seminal work of fostering spiritual fruit that fails to bear true results. We cannot afford to overlook any tendencies that threaten to stymie true growth. Those culprits may initially seem as innocent as that precious parade of Easter bunnies. Their unanticipated appearance had me singing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” all day long! However, here’s the problem. After that nest of bunnies nibbled away my emerging florets before they had a chance to flourish, I never got the chance to sing “Tiptoe through the Tulips”!

Lent is a season for inspecting the garden of our lives. Let’s note anything that might undermine our spiritual development and commit whatever that may be to God. I appreciate this word of encouragement from retired United Methodist pastor James A. Harnish: “Easter promises that what God does in the resurrection of Jesus is God’s intention for the entire creation.”

In these final days leading up to Easter, let’s allow God to accomplish in us what has been promised—identify anything that threatens destruction and death so that we can fully embrace new growth and new life!

Rev. Faith Timmons is a United Methodist elder and a member of the Michigan Annual Conference. She spent time as a journalist before pursuing full-time ministry.

Last Updated on April 5, 2023

The Michigan Conference