The Kulp family planted their summer garden this past weekend. Although this is my second year (author straightens his imaginary tie), I am not an expert gardener. So I did my planning and planting under the expert advisement of the fine people at Renfrow’s Hardware in Matthews, NC. Before planting I pulled out our winter plants including the rare never-blossoming-brussel-sprouts, and lots of lettuce including red leaf, disappearing spinach, and hipster kale. I then turned the soil, put in the irrigation lines, and planted the plants while my kids Emmie, Christian, and Camilla watched and pulled out worms to play with. As I was finishing up the project the Lord brought these verses to mind:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” –Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7
A little background before we consider the intersection of gardening and redemption: These words were spoken by God, to his people who had been sent into exile for their sin. The people had been taken from their home, from their temple, from the place that God himself dwelt. The location in which they resided was a foreign territory, and the state of mind they dwelt in was the future.
The exiles were biding their time, taking their punishment, all in hopes of returning to Jerusalem. Like the later seasons of the television show Lost they thought their mission was to “get back to the island.” However, God corrects their misunderstanding telling them their effort is not to be put into getting back, instead their mission was to be present in their exiled home by building houses and plant gardens. Later in this chapter he tells them they should do this because “Your exile will be long.”
When you look at the big picture, what God is telling them is: Don’t worry, this is not beyond my plan. I am at work building my kingdom, expanding my domain, and the answer is not to go backwards. I have called you here for a reason. Yes, this world is not your ultimate home, but for now your job is to settle in, put down roots, and seek the good of the place where I have placed you.
As Christians in this world we are called to live in light of the world to come, but that does not excuse us from the call to put down roots now. Our citizenship is in Heaven, but he calls us to live here and now. Finding that balance can be hard. Both this world and the world to come have an undeniable pull, but that is the tension in which we are called to live.
Our city tends to be a transient one where people are often brought in and sent out quickly and that can lead to relational apathy, “Why invest if they or I will be moving in a couple of years?” The major problem with that sentiment is that we do not know how long God has called us to live here.
But we do know God has called us here now.
So let us fight against ungodly aspects of the transient mindset. Let us do that by…
…living in our neighborhoods to the glory of God.
…gardening to the glory of God.
…getting to know people and loving them enough to be intentional.
…sharing the good news of the gospel with those that do not live in the light.
Some questions for you to consider:
-Which is harder for you: To put down roots and live for God’s glory here in the city which he has planted you? Or, to live in light of the world to come?
-What would it look like to more intentionally engage the neighbors God has given you?
-What would it look like to put down roots and seek the welfare of the city in which you live?
[In case you were wondering what we planted, we hope to be harvesting: okra, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Jalapeños, cantaloupe, and herbs. I am not sure what will come of it, but we are seeking the glory of God in gardening by putting down roots, and it is our prayer that God will continue to help us develop relationships in which we can share the gospel as we seek the welfare of this great city of Charlotte.]
Below is a painting that hangs in my office that was inspired by Jeremiah 29 and is intended to depict our calling to put down roots in a city that is in need of the light of the gospel. I pray that by we would have the joy of seeing the light of the gospel spread and that the good news would bring restoration and push redemption to the edges of our city.