I have been thinking about faith the last few weeks, in part because I’ve been to church twice this month but mostly because I’ve started gardening again.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the church I grew up in. I like the light in the sanctuary, the way it changes depending on the weather—when it is gray and murky outside, it turns watery inside too, and when it is sunny, the windows glitter like jewels and light up everyone’s faces so we all look touched by grace (instead of just feeling it)—and I like the way our voices sound when we sing the songs we’ve been singing for years. I like the familiarity of the community, all the same people I’ve been seeing forever. I like the blessing Katie says, and the way she radiates kindness, an inner calm, when she stands in front of the congregation. I like the way you can almost see everyone’s hearts burst a little around the edges when we start the offering hymn, In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful, in the Lord I will rejoice…
It has taken me a long time to reckon with my religion. Faith has not come easily to me, and still doesn’t, in the strictest sense of the word—but I do believe in great, true love, and deep compassion, and serving those around us in ways that stretch our understanding of ourselves. I believe, above all, in the mystery of the universe, in a power that connects all of us and fills those quiet spaces in each of our hearts with gratitude and gladness.
Which brings us to gardening. There’s nothing like a seed to make you believe in the holy, the almighty, the absolute grace of the world. Forgive me the cliché, but really—have you ever sat down counting out black specks of poppy seeds with a tweezer, hoping against hope that in a few months they’ll be flowering out into crepe paper petals, heads so light and delicate it seems they might lift off into the breeze like a butterfly any second?
Because I have. I spent all weekend tamping down soil into starter flats and jerry-rigging grow lights in my basement while rain poured outside and snow threatened in the forecast. I’ve made my planting lists and whispered encouragement to the seeds in their beds, crossing my fingers that these sweet seeds will reward my patience and find the courage the grow.
If gardening isn’t an expression of the faithful, I don’t know what is. The mystery of the seed, the preparation of those who believe, the sweet renewal each year brings as we begin again. This is why I find myself at my most faithful in February, one of the bleakest months. I have to dig deep to prepare myself for the planting, but here I am—stirring myself into action, despite all signs to the opposite.
And it is because I believe—I believe spring will come, my flowers will grow, and I will soon be out in the ground on my knees, worshipping.