For the New Year I’ve been musing on an ancient image, a garden as analogy for my soul. You might also find it a helpful way to explore your soul/spirit/sub-concious/secret identity.
Gardens are not common in the Bible but they certainly existed, from God planting the first one in Gen 2:8. The garden as an analogy of the soul comes with the Prophets: for example Isaiah takes the garden as an illustration of a bad life in ch1:30, Jeremiah uses it for a good life in ch 31:12.
So if you accept the value of the analogy, what might we find in a garden that helps us to explore our soul?
- Fence, boundary, markers. If we know the limits, we can see what we are working with. Beware the old english ‘haha’, which allows it to look as though your land runs for miles, yet will trick you into falling into a ditch.
- Structure. Do I use brick walls to shelter and warm my fruit trees? Do I have a strong trellis for my roses? I can think that plants are what matters in the garden, but they require an infrastructure and it will be to my benefit if the wood and stonework is strong, stable and attractive.
- A plan, what do I want to grow, what does God (the ‘head gardener’) want or encourage me to grow? Beautiful flowers, rich fruit, ugly but nutritious turnips?
- Outside my garden: I love to think of this as my private space, but it will only flourish if I share it. Who do I trust to give me good gardening advice? Where do I find seeds? Are the fences low enough so that my neighbours can look in and enjoy my plants?
- Weather: my garden is not entirely within my control. So have I planted it with consideration for the seasons, climate change, day and night? Will I feel comfortable in my garden in the winter, the rain, the dark?
- Water is essential to a garden and we have plenty of stories about it in the Old and New Testaments. Do I have a river, fountain or well? Is there a damp patch that never dries up in one corner and another that is always too dry?
- Inevitably there are stones, and areas of poor soil (perhaps reflecting the things that have gone wrong in my life so far). Are some of them be redeemed (the best vines grow on rocky soil) or are there some things I need to clear from my garden?
- How much work am I planning to do in my garden? If I am busy with other interests and responsibilities, perhaps this is a good time to keep things simple. Yet even if I have a lot of time to give to it, sometimes plants need to be left to grow, the right season needs to be waited for, the warmth of God’s sun can achieve more than the labours of my spade.
There are many other parallels between the garden and the soul, these are just a few for starters. These images can be explored in words or pictures. Do let me know your thoughts.