This summer I have been caring for my neighbour’s garden. He’s elderly and frail, and can’t manage the garden any more, so when he asked me for help with some shopping, I volunteered myself and the kids to tidy it for him. That was not entirely a selfless act – while we do try and do something community-based as a way of celebrating Christmas, I was also looking forward to getting to know his garden He had the house built himself, 60 years ago, did all the painting and the wiring, and made the garden. Every tree that was planted, my neighbour put in. He built every pergola, every fence, every gate, every step. He made all the concrete paths, the little walls, and even the bird bath. Now, the garden is mature, and grown up tall. It’s like the Secret Garden – a book I loved as a child. There are paths under overhanging trees, secret tunnels, hidden areas – it’s delightful!
Well, I’ve enjoyed this garden a lot, but today when I was picking some feed at home for my bunny, I realised that my own vegetable garden was less-than well-cared-for! Where there had been nice healthy broccoli, now there are caterpillar-munched stalks, with convolvulus starting to twine upwards. Dandelions are sprouting among the carrots, and the whole thing looks decidedly unkempt!
I think God had a message for me and for others in this garden -I had been so taken with the pleasant and appreciated work of caring for my neighbour’s garden, that I had neglected my own thankless vegetable plot.
Often in a life of ministry we are called upon to care for others. But if we neglect our own environment, weeds creep in, things fall apart, and all of a sudden it’s a great mess!
We must attend to our own homes and families before taking on all the other pastoral needs of the community. They can be done together, but it’s very easy to take the more interesting tasks. But remember if we neglect the boring day-to-day weeding of the vegetable garden, before we know it we are in a huge mess.
May God bless your ministries richly this year, especially those at home.