Article: Spiritual Growth Is Not an Accident

Yesterday morning, I came across an article on Desiring God titled, “Spiritual Growth Is Not An Accident” by Jon Bloom. In it, Jon paints an analogy between spiritual growth and gardening1, arguing that while plants can grow by themselves, effective gardening doesn’t happen without specific efforts by the gardener:

If a gardener wants certain flowers or shrubs or grass or trees to grow in his garden, he must actually cultivate the ground and plant them. But that’s just the beginning. He then must persistently and diligently work to nurture and protect what he’s planted from drought, weeds, pestilence, and pesky critters (like my hole-digging dog).

The Benefits of Gardening

There are definitely positives to keeping a garden. I take great satisfaction from seeing the seedlings popping out of the ground and growing into larger plants, and I’m always excited when I first notice tomatoes and peppers setting fruit, leading to the eventual harvest. As an aggressive pruner of my tomato plants, I enjoy the process of working through each plant on a quiet summer evening to prune and pick off the unnecessary growth.

Distracting Downsides

But there are also (for me) plenty of downsides. I get rather obsessive about my plants and usually stress out over some pest problem or apparent disease that might be plaguing my crops. The internet doesn’t help here at all, since it’s primarily just going to suggest more remedies and fertilizers to try out and purchase. The end result is that I spend lots of time, energy, and money worrying about something that I usually can’t control. It’s in this area of gardening where the author’s message hit home for me.

Do you know which are your primary gardens and which are your secondary gardens? Are your primary gardens receiving your primary attention? You likely cannot care well for every garden you wish to grow. At times, the needs of your primary gardens will require you to neglect some secondary gardens for a season, and other secondary gardens altogether.

I’m realizing more and more that my investment in the physical vegetable garden in my backyard has led me to greater levels of frustration and stress because of things I can’t control. My over-focus on gardening has caused me to pour more time into the plants, while neglecting the much more important areas of “spiritual” gardening in my life. These include my own relationship with God, my relationship with my wife and kids, spiritual investment in the people in our church, and other friendships. The idea of “primary and secondary gardens” is a very real one – and it’s worth taking more time to reconsider what I have place as most important in my life.

The little garden outside our kitchen window is a secondary garden currently neglected due to time-consuming needs in more important “gardens.” I hope to give it attention soon, but for now, it must wait. And while it waits, it’s reminding me that when it comes to any of my gardens, what I do and don’t do really matters.

  1. I don’t normally agree with a hyper-calvinist perspective on our role in God’s work, so it was refreshing to see the balance that the author found for this article.