Life is a classroom, if we’re willing to observe and evaluate the things we experience. Life can be full of lessons if we’d only be more present, more aware, in the moment and more willing to spend time in quiet reflection. This is one reason I’m so passionate about helping people to slow the pace of their life - we hear and learn so much better when life isn’t churning like a runaway train.
Last year I decided to not plant a garden. I’ve learned a lot about Sabbath recently and I wanted to apply that principle to gardening. But this year, with the smell of Spring, I borrowed a rototiller from my good neighbor to prepare for planting. I’ve tilled before but this time there were several gems I unearthed as the metal blades cut deep into the fallow ground. There’s definitely a zen to the entire process of gardening, for me. From planning what to grow, tilling, planting, weeding, watering, caring for the plants and then the harvest, there’s a visceral connection between the earth and me. There are so many lessons and parallels to life, to spirit and relationship, if we’re willing to take the valuable time ponder them deeply.
A few pulls of the cord, an adjustment of the choke, another tug and the engine cranked over like a champ. Chug, chug, chug, pop, chug, VROOOM! Using a front-tine tiller with the garden having been undisturbed for over a year, I mentally prepared for a bit more rigorous work than in previous years.
I made a short pass in the bare soil and was not surprised at how hard it was packed. Never-before-seen rocks emerged from the ground as I made another pass along the grass line. The smell of earth rose from the grinding blades and the odor of unburnt fuel wafted through the air. The cool of the season made it a perfect morning to till as my arms and body mimicked the vibration of the machine. There was an expectancy, an energy that gathered in my chest as I slowly made my way up and down and back again through the renewed garden. Worms wriggled for cover in the bright sun as the engine putt-putted to a stop. I surveyed the work and was pleased. As I scraped the caked soil from the tiller, I began to gather my thoughts of what I’d just experienced. Here are the parallels I drew between tilling and life.
Don’t Force it
A tiller, much like life, can’t be forced. The tines spin and chomp at the dirt in such a way that little by little is far more effective than chunk by chunk. The first time I tilled I forced it. Instead of letting the machine do the work at it’s pace, I pushed to make it work at mine. Not good! I was sore from head to toe when I was done and the strain on the machine was significantly increased. Tillers have sheer pins that are designed to break should it experience resistance above a certain level. Humans are like that, too! We have warning mechanisms that pop when we’re pushing too hard - shortness of breath, dizziness, irritability, sleeplessness, indigestion, anxiety, rage, strained relationships. But when a human breaks, it can be fatal! Humans are not machines. When we break we can’t always be fixed. Don’t force it.
The Big Ones Need More Time.
Every now and again the tiller encountered a large rock and the machine bucked like a spurred bronco. Again, you can’t force it, you have to take your time, you’ll need to apply some grace. Yeah, you may successfully dislodge the obstruction with a big shove, but push too hard and something will snap. There are big issues in life that we just need to take more time with. They rock us to the core and we desperately want to thrust our way through, but we shouldn’t. We can’t ignore them either - few things grow in rock for long! Sometimes we have to slow our pace, take our time and confront the issue with caring, consistent, intentional work. This takes patience and wisdom - things we don’t come equipped with from birth. The big ones need more time.
You’re Gonna Need Help
There were a few times when the tiller just couldn’t dislodge the obstruction. It was then that I had to back the machine up, shut it down and use another tool. The rock wasn’t going to be removed without some outside help. From time to time, whether for spiritual, emotional or physical reasons, we’re going to have to back up, shut down and ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom and it goes hand-in-hand with the first two lessons - don’t force it, and know when to take your time. Sometimes significant problems need significant solutions and we’ll need counsel to overcome them. You’re gonna need help.
It’s for these reasons, and a few more, that I’ve adjusted how I approach life. I’m still learning and growing as God tills the soil of my heart. He’s unearthed some big rocks and He’s been patient with me. I pray that you would seriously consider what I’ve written and how it applies to your life. I pray you won’t have to go through personal pain from forcing things. I pray you’ll understand, especially when you interact with others, that grace and time are wonderful ingredients in any relationship - especially when the big issues surface. And, asking for help, intentionally stopping and allowing others to assist, is actually a sign of maturity and wisdom, not weakness. Happy tilling!