How does your (spiritual) garden grow?

By Erika Rizkallah

Got a brown thumb? Happily, spiritual planting is all about growth! We can learn so much about growing our faith by applying lessons from the garden.

I inherited my gardening passion from my dad. I also come from a long line of farmers and joyfully remember the summer weeks spent with my grandparents. My brother and I explored fields planted with corn and soybeans and hunted for wild asparagus growing near a ditch in front of the farmhouse.

When I moved into my forever home I inherited the previous homeowner’s garden. I was thrilled with the yard until I learned she practiced Ikebana (Japanese flower design). On closer inspection, I discovered it contained all sorts of heinous invasive plants. I spent hours weeding, only to find them sprout again, trying to strangle plants I wanted to keep.


But I was patient, and after pulling them by the roots, I planted my favorites in their place. Now I have a gorgeous yard that fills me with satisfaction and peace — though it’s still a work in progress.

Tending to my little corner of the world connects me to God in a more meaningful way. Adam and Eve’s first home was a garden and many of Jesus’ teachings took place outdoors and reflect his love of nature. Themes of harvest, sowing and reaping feature prominently in the Bible.

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Growth and spiritual fruit production are imperatives for anyone seeking maturity in Christ. Here are five ways our earthy and spiritual lives are similar:

Great soil: All gardeners know the key to a productive garden is great soil. It’s the primary ingredient for flourishing plants and must be healthy. Conditioning is often necessary because let’s face it, almost no soil is perfectly healthy in its natural state. If it’s too sandy, wet or filled with sticky clay, plants wither and die.

The soil of our spiritual life is the heart. Biblically speaking, the heart – kardia in Greek – represents our whole inner being. It’s not just a blood pumping organ, but the source of life, made up of mind, soul and spirit.

Nourishment: We can’t simply plop flowers and plants into a garden and expect it to grow. We must nourish it. Sunlight, the meticulous watering and protection from the elements are critical. We often need to amend soil with fertilizer and emulsifiers, which come from surprising sources. We apply dead fish and poop to feed our plants — this used to gross me out.

In spiritual matters, our fertilizer is prayer and scripture reading. And just as manure provides nutrients, trouble (the poopy parts of life), also benefits us. Adversity strengthens and causes us to seek God, to rely on him and his word for our inner health.



Maintenance: Here is where many gardeners begin to falter. The first part, getting the soil and feeding right, is relatively easy. The hard part is keeping up with it. Regular maintenance includes weeding, pruning, pest control and deadheading — a fancy term for removing spent flower heads.

Spiritual life requires maintenance too. We get this by spending intentional daily quiet time with God. Enjoying friendship with fellow believers can help us weed out sin and discern the parts of life God’s wants to prune. While painful, pruning — cutting off dead and unproductive stuff — helps us grow and flourish. Regular maintenance gets rid of pests, slugs and worms threatening to devour us.

Patience: Waiting is the truly difficult part. After all the time and energy spent on the early part of the process, it’s not unusual to see little result. We live in an “instant” society and gardening is anything but immediate. It can take months and even years for some plants to thrive and grow. So it goes with faith . . .


But hidden under the dark surface and seemingly dormant areas, God is always working.  Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and our Father is generous to provide for our needs. Though often boring, waiting is necessary and active.

Being still, standing firm in our faith and trusting are active habits. Even though we sometimes can’t see it, God is ever-present and cares deeply for us.

Produce: This is the good stuff — our hard work has paid off! Beautiful, bountiful flowers bloom and we pluck fruit from the trees. We bite into the luscious apple, craft a bouquet and feel satisfaction and accomplishment.

God wants this for us. He wants fruit production and for us to enjoy that fresh fruit of our labor.


Take a bite out of the juicy peach and thank him for his daily tending!

Your Turn: Our earthly and spiritual lives are a work in progress. There’s always work to sow and benefits to reap. Where are the areas your spiritual garden needs tending most?

Have you ever been wronged?

Have you ever been wronged?

The other day I was reading about composting, because I just bought one. Only a true gardener dreams about having a composter right? Here it is…

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Next year…just wait ’til next year.

So anyway, I read that in a certain American town, growing beautiful tomatoes is prized – so much so that it’s competitive. One woman couldn’t grow ripe tomatoes no matter what she tried; and she tried everything. That’s where the compost comes in. The year she used compost as her primary soil, her tomatoes grew so luscious that not only did she win the town prize, someone slipped into her garden in the middle of the night and swiped the plants. Dug them right out of her garden. She was so upset, she filed a lawsuit.

That would never happen to me for obvious reasons.

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I got a harvest of one so far.

Back to my original question: Have you ever been wronged?

I’m in that predicament right now. No lawsuit can be filed in my case – someone’s saying things about me that are blatantly untrue. I know this is coming from the enemy of my soul and so I’m relying on scripture to keep a muzzle on my mouth.  And I’m waiting on the lord to intervene.

But it’s hard, and I think for me the hardest thing to do as a follower of Jesus is to keep my mouth shut and turn the other cheek. 

Jesus calls us to be like him and to treat our enemies according to his commands:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28

What about you? How do you react when you’ve been wronged?

A Legacy in Bloom

One of my earliest memories of flowers comes courtesy of my father. When I was ten-years-old, he bought our first house in a place nicknamed “Azalea City.” Spring was ushered in with waves of show-stopping color. Every home on our street had azaleas in their yard and cars filled with gawkers cruised up and down our hilly neighborhood streets. Each year my dad would take his trusty garden book and select the plants he wanted to buy from his favorite nursery. I hated going with him, but it was not negotiable. In my adolescent mind, garden centers were BORING. I was in charge of pulling the wagon full of plants behind's garden bookOne day everything changed. I was unloading trays of flowers and shrubs from the car when suddenly, I really noticed them. Boring became BEAUTIFUL. It was such a weird feeling – a harmony created between us.I asked my dad if I could help plant them and he let me. I never minded the garden center after that year. Because of this, the azalea has a special place in my heart and my father’s passionate legacy lives on in me. Today, I live in a town that celebrates a legendary Azalea Festival. In the spring, over 200,000 people descend on our city to celebrate these blossoms and the festival events around it. Hundreds of passionate gardeners go on the garden tour to drool over gorgeous displays in the yards of select homes in and around our town.

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My dad passed away twenty five years ago, but the blooms of spring are a vibrant memorial of a man who gave me his gift of gardening.

What about you? Are there any plants that remind you of someone special?