The Discipline of Spiritual Gardening Lifestyle

The Discipline of Spiritual Gardening: Cultivating promise from chaos


“When our minds seem chaotic with thoughts of fear, degradation and hate, we can pull these weeds through the discipline of meditation and the study of God’s Word.”

As COVID-19 exploded onto the global scene, it seemed like everything that was normal began to fly every which way. It was as if normal life was now shrapnel of the pandemic. This is what chaos does, doesn’t it? It throws all things off-kilter and out of order. Like the rest of the world, I was trying to find structure in the best way possible. In the midst of working from home, attending church online, watching daily news updates, and picking up new gardening skills, I was looking for order in all the chaos. As I tended to my new plants, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is the great Gardener who specializes in making order out of chaos. As the Holy Spirit hovered over the chaos of the unformed cosmos (Genesis 1:2), God created order and promise for all.

water being poured from a green watering can over a garden of small green sproutsThis is the repeated story of God’s grace. We read in Scripture the accounts of the Israelites sinking deep into the chaos of their rebellion, yet God faithfully presented order to their chaos so they would experience His creative promise. We recall the image of Peter stepping out of the boat with great anticipation, only to sink deep into the chaos of the waters below. He is caught, however, by the faithful hand of Jesus, the One who ordered the waters to be still and the winds to be calm. We have all experienced the overwhelming feelings of chaos in life through illness, loss, pain, and our own choices. Yet, just as He did at the beginning, the Spirit of God hovers over our lives, extending the faithfulness of God and creating order and promise out of our chaos.

When the prophet Hosea was called to speak to God’s people, who were also living in a time of absolute chaos, God spoke a message of grace. The message identified all that was off-kilter yet called God’s people back to His promise. Through Hosea, God’s message was clear: He desires His people to live not in chaos, but in the promises He has ordained. Further still, God wants His people to be active participants in the transformative work from chaos to promise. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, by God’s grace, all of humanity has been given agency and responsibility to cultivate what He has created and ordered. I love how God reminds His people in Hosea 10:12 of the beautiful disciplines they are to utilize in cultivating that which God has ordered. This verse, “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” God identifies that His promise of righteousness will rain down on His people as they engage in the cultivating work of God’s creative order.

Today the Holy Spirit is hovering and reminding us of the agency we have been given to cultivate that which God has ordered. Just like the Israelites, we are instructed to tend our soil as well. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, suggests that “This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines—they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us.” It is through spiritual discipline that we actively participate with the Holy Spirit in the transformation of the chaos in our lives to the promises God has for us.

When our minds seem chaotic with thoughts of fear, degradation and hate, we can pull these weeds through the discipline of meditation and the study of God’s Word. When we are overwhelmed by the confusion found in comparison and consumerism, we can till the ground with simplicity and solitude. When there is discord in our relationships, we can live in the power given to us by God to discipline ourselves as Christ did and practise submission and service. When our lives are out of order because of our own sinful choices, we can break up the unplowed ground with confession. When our world is in disarray, we can get digging in the ground through prayer and fasting. Spiritual disciplines give us the tools to seek the Lord for guidance as well as to worship and celebrate God’s goodness.

As we choose to embrace our influence and responsibility to cultivate God’s promises through prayer, service, celebration, etc., let us remember that when we utilize spiritual disciplines, we are simply implementing tools like the spade, rake and plow. Spiritual disciplines are the devices that assist us in loosening the ground to create space in the chaos for the Holy Spirit to transform us and rain down His promised grace, freedom, mercy, humility and righteousness. In beautiful connectedness we garden together—the Holy Spirit and us—cultivating promise out of chaos.

Kim Quigley is one of the campus pastors at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, B.C. She has also served as a hospital chaplain and devoted the majority of her time and energy over the last 13 years to raising up the next generation of Christ followers as a children’s pastor.

This article appeared in the January/February/March 2021 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2021 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos by Markus Spiske Unsplash.

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