"Thinking he was the gardener....”
On Easter Sunday, I shared about an often ignored detail in the resurrection story. Upon seeing the risen Jesus for the first time, Mary mistook him for a gardener. And I offered the perspective that perhaps, rather than it being a mistake, she was exactly right. Maybe the death-conquering, resurrected Lord of the earth was also kneeling in it, carefully preparing the soil for the slow process of bringing forth life.
It seems appropriate to continue with this image for a little while this spring. People are emerging from their homes, the weather is warming up, and yards and gardens are once again coming alive. Now is a season where growth is a little more noticeable, though for several months, it's been all but invisible in the fields and forests around us. But all along, things have been happening.
The resurrection is certainly a revolution- a flipping of the narrative of death and condemnation! But our subsequent journey with Jesus is often more evolution, if we're honest. We don't particularly like that part; a microwave-ready experience is easier than simmering a stew all day long. And talking endlessly about all the information we know is certainly easier than sitting quietly with Jesus, letting him slow us down and cultivate our character. But discipleship is a process and not a destination. And we often get stuck when we expect a revolution experience all the time.
We need to embrace how Eugene Peterson described Christian discipleship: a long obedience in the same direction. That really doesn't sound like a revolution. That sounds like an incremental journey of lifelong movement. Perhaps we struggle with this process of growth because we've been sold a false narrative that suggests that if you're going to change, God will make it easy and pretty instantaneous. If we've been trained to only look and talk about revolution, we may miss the primary work that Jesus does as the resurrected gardener of our souls.
Walking with Jesus can be both restful and difficult work. It requires intentionality. Becoming more aware, more compassionate, more grounded, more emotionally mature... these things are not instant coffee. They are cold brew. They are not supermarket purchases. They are garden cultivation. They are not a podcast listen. They are authoring a full length novel. It's slow, evolution type stuff.
Jesus brings transformation to our spirits, our minds, and our actions. Sometimes it happens in significant jumps. But most of the time, it happens in microscopic little moments of obedience, where humility is more important than ego. It comes when we make the choice to love with a word or action in the smallest of ways. When we choose generosity at a moment when looking out for ourselves and our stuff would be easier. It comes in the moments of sitting with the words of Jesus even when we don't feel much. These are small seeds that Jesus will bring fruit out of. And before you know it, you might just look back and realize that in Christ you've become a new creation, as Paul stated it. Maybe our evolution is more revolutionary than we think.
Let's intentionally lean into the process of discipleship with Jesus. And let's do better at celebrating the tiny moments of growth with the family of God around us. It can be incredibly inspiring to hear someone say, "yesterday I chose to turn off my phone for five minutes and write a prayer in my journal, laying down my stresses." Incremental moments bring fruit over time, and we need to share them! Resurrection takes many forms. Let's hang out in the garden with Jesus.
Jesus, cultivate my spirit today so that my life reflects your heart and hands just a tiny bit more by nightfall. I trust you for growth.