It is early March and the garden is a graveyard.
Stripped leafless, raspberry canes stand as skeleton sentinels over the raised beds that appear in the gray March morning as bleached-cedar crypts.
It is a deserted graveyard of last summer’s folly and autumn’s frosted nights. Leaves lay clung to one another in a dappled, moulded pile on wet earth; and stems, once green founts of nourishment, poke the air in haphazard directions.
It all looks an architectural experiment gone awry, a verdant dystopia of what once was and what I’m left with is slime and detritus and memories.
But I breathe in chilled air laced with the scents of earthy decomposition and I breathe out again and say,
It is all death and a promise.
That is the gardener’s life: to accept the seasons and the life and loss that they bring with a trowel in hand and hope in heart.
That is the life I choose. But before that, it was the life that chose me.
Before I gardened, before I carried babies in the womb and heart and arms, before I pledged lifelong love to my sweetheart, before I knew any sort of loss or living, before I came to be, the death and the promise claimed me. The story it tells and the future I hold with trembling fingers because of it is the mystery, the resolution, the revelation and the life.
In a few lines of a letter written to a church in the city of Ephesus, Paul runs a broad highlighter through the eons of time and answers mankind’s united questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” (Ephesians 1:4)
Even before he made the world. While darkness enveloped the solar system we call home and the breath of heaven had not yet inspired life by hovering and moving and undulating power over the darkness there was this: God loved us.
God loved us.
Before he created a twinkle or a drop or a seed.
Who? you may ask, because people are always categorizing, drawing lines in sand and making rules and structures and buildings to include and exclude.
Jesus whispered the truth to the old Pharisee: it is not the will of the Father that any man should perish.
He loved us and chose us all. Us all!
And then he made a garden.
He started the magnificent ball rolling, the seasons and the seed and the harvest. He started the miracle of microbes and decomposition….before the fall and fruit and eyes-wide-open sinners hid behind trees and pointed blaming fingers.
Death has really been a part of the plan all along.
I believe this to be true because I know my nature, our collective nature, that prevents us from knowing the rich, luxurious gift of breath and life and work and all that comes with the experience of being human until we comprehend utter and complete loss. That is why the serpent slithered and spoke slippery-sweet words of doubt and that is why the fruit was plucked and taken and it’s juice sucked in through innocent lips. Because they were lips that knew not the abundant gift of death and subsequent life, the whole of grace.
The death holds a promise, “he chose us to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”
Set apart. Holy.
We are set apart for a purpose grand and vital, to no longer bear the marks of failure and fault and blame and regret.
Like fresh wildflowers scooped into a glass to brighten a corner, our purpose is simply to be, to please him. And I believe, and you may disagree, that this “set apart-ness” is based upon our being created in his image–we are different from every other living thing in that we are not only proof of a complex design, but we possess unique qualities and emotions that no other animal has.
God delighted in foreknowing every single one of us. That alone qualifies us with great purpose.
God knows, loves and has chosen you!
Friend, won’t you walk with me through the next few verses in Ephesians chapter one? Unwrap with me the simple yet magnificent mystery of God’s plan for you.
Let’s not get caught in the mire of the predestination debate, but lets shoot straight on to the real point of Ephesians 1: God thought of each and every one of us, in the immense knowledge of his divine mind, he knew our DNA, our unique features. He also knew the inevitable decisions we would each make to live outside of his plan. If it hadn’t started with Adam, it would have with one of his descendants.
We are human, made in his image, but also created to be in relationship with and dependent upon our Creator, God. He is passionate about people, all people throughout all time and circumstance on this earth. He will bring everyone under the authority of Jesus Christ. What that means exactly, we don’t really know. But we can look at the nature of God, his attributes of mercy, love, justice, holiness, faithfulness and we can trust that since God is big enough to dream up each person from the beginning of time, he will do what is best and merciful and just in the end.
Read with me the passage in Ephesians over these next few days. Let the wonderment of his perfect plan embrace you. Engage in it. Choose to see yourself and others as God does: loved, chosen, holy, purposeful, delightful.
Ephesians 1:3-11 (NLT)
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.