Two weekends ago, while my wife was out of town taking care of her mother, my son and I took a notion to do something thoughtful for her. As an early Mother’s Day surprise, which hopefully will be in bloom by then, Caleb and I planted a flower bed.
We went to our local garden supply store and picked out some annuals. Neither of us knows a lot about flowers, so we picked out some beautiful, but rather odd-looking ones — snap dragons, celosias and dahlias. While not your typical garden selec-tions for sure, they’re certainly reflective of our personalities, some would say.
When Michelle returned, she caught the planting bug, too. The strawberry plants on our deck doubled over the winter and needed to be repotted, and some tomato plants she’d ordered arrived. Our deck garden is taking root.
Growing up in a preacher’s home in a farming community in a southern town, planting gardens were often ways people shared God’s blessings. I re-member being invited over to the homes of church members to shuck corn, snap pole beans or cut watermelons or cantaloups. Sometimes a paper bag of squash, tomatoes or potatoes would mysteriously show up on our door stoop.
One of my friends once brought our family several grocery bags of zucchini. At least I considered him as my friend until my mom started experimenting with recipes like zucchini bread, zucchini pudding and zucchini casserole. In a warped, passive aggressive prank, I drew faces on the zucchinis and hid them in odd places all over the house — in kitchen cabinets, on towel shelves, in clothes hampers, sitting in recliners. I think she took the hint: “Enough, with the zucchini!”
Where was I going with this garden editorial before I got sidetracked by zucchini? Oh, yea, it’s planting season — a great time to think of others. Small gardens can become great tools of outreach to your pastor’s family, neighbors, friends, other church members and those in need. Planting a few extra seeds now (with a little tending and fertilizer) can grow into a little of God’s love at harvest time. It says, “We care enough to share some of God’s blessings with you.”
I’m reminded of the garden love story of Boaz and Ruth, a poor widow and foreigner. Boaz was a wealthy landowner in Bethlehem, and relative of Naomi’s late husband. Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, who also had recently lost her husband and chose to return to Israel with Naomi.
During a period of famine, Ruth went each day to pick up the grains that the work-er’s left behind in Boaz’s field. Aware of her misfortune, Boaz told his workers to leave plenty of grain behind. He later invited Ruth to eat with the workers, and he encouraged her to continue gleaning in his fields where he knew she’d be safe.
Boaz and Ruth would later marry, and they had a son named Obed. She is one of four women that Matthew names in the genealogy of Jesus: “Boaz, the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.”
Though it was hard for them to see at the time, in the midst of Naomi’s and Ruth’s tragedy and loss, God was unfolding His amazing plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, our “Kinsman Redeemer.” How could Ruth have ever thought her humble story of loss, hunger and restoration would one day be inter-twined with the greatest love story ever told? Her story also makes it clear that the Mes-siah would redeem all humanity, not only the Jews.
In Boaz’s kindness and compassion toward a foreign, Moabite woman, we see God’s provision for the lost, hungry and hurting. Through even the sim-plest act of kindness, like leaving more grain behind, God’s faithfulness through good and bad times is made evident.
And through Boaz’s garden, we see a poignant illustration of Je-sus’ words: “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? ’ “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’”
Plant a garden of love today!