Sunflowers in the carrots
Back in February, when it was 150 degrees colder than it is today in Iowa, I sat down with a seed catalog and drew a little map, plotting out where I’d plant our vegetables and flowers. And on that one sunny day in May, the kids and I went outside to bring those mapped dreams to reality. We dug little holes in perfect distance from one another, just as I planned. I poured seeds into my kid’s small hands as they tucked them in to rest for a while. The carrots were in neat little rows and the broccoli had lots of rooms to grow. And then, we waited and we watched as little sprouts began to grow.
Well, now that it’s July, thanks to heavy rains and my children’s creativity, our garden looks nothing like my little map. Zinnias mixed in with tomatoes, kale and basil together. And there are these two sunflowers almost as tall as me right in the middle of the carrots. It’s a beautiful hodgepodge of plants, all growing happily together in our garden bed.
It’s neither efficient nor conventional, but I love this chaotic, flourishing garden of ours. It makes me think of the parable Jesus tells where the Holy Gardener scatters seeds recklessly, wanting only to plant and for things to grow abundantly. God’s word of love is planted in unexpected places, taking root to bring beauty and goodness to the world.
If we look at our lives, we’d see that most of our growth happens when our garden is neither perfect nor homogeneous. Our maturing happens, not when everything is lined up right in a row as we planned, or when we are surrounded by others that are just like us. Instead, the goodness and the richness of life turns up when we bump up against people who are different than we are and who introduce us to seeing the world in new ways. Our sense of ourselves develops when we are nurtured and challenged by others who help us see from new perspectives.
We are at our best as congregations and as a country when we cultivate communities of diversity. Our differences only help us to flourish. We are stronger, more creative, and powerful in our witness to love when we are committed to tending to the soil of compassion, open-mindedness, and welcome.
So next time you get a chance, plant yourself with an open heart in a chair (or pew) next to someone new. Perhaps they think, or look, or speak differently than you do, but as you hear their story, they might just help you to discover the goodness of God in new ways, like a sunflower growing in the middle of a vegetable garden.