Little inspired me to plant a vegetable garden this year. The spring air seemed abysmally cold. I’d waited too long to start my seedlings indoors. And each day I looked out my kitchen window at my little plot of soil, the weeds stood taller.
But I had a choice: Spend all summer watching the weeds grow taller or get out there and do something. “The only way to start is to start,” I’d recently read. And so, one week before Memorial Day, I pulled on my rubber boots, dug out my pitchfork and tromped through the wooden arbor to my garden.
One week later, the weeds filled a blue plastic tarp, but the soil was still too hard and heavy to plant. To the rescue came my husband, Dana, with a borrowed rototiller. Half-an-hour later, the loam was light and loose. Over the next few days, I hoed the soil into five long beds—leaving narrow footpaths between. As I worked, my vision began to take shape. Where to plant the sunflowers, where the beans.
By now, Memorial Day—the marker by which all Mainers know to get their gardens planted—had come and gone. Hoping I wasn’t too late, I wandered the rows of our local greenhouse with my young sons, filling a cart with stalky tomatoes, perky cucumbers, green peppers, and kale. And who could resist growing their own eggplant and Brussel sprouts?
After two more days spent shoveling a truckload of compost onto the waiting beds, my garden was finally ready to plant! With the assurance from a worker at the greenhouse that I was not too late, I popped the tomatoes with their tightly bound roots from their plastic pouch.
“My teacher says you have to loosen the roots,” my 8-year-old, Asher, informed me, watering can in hand.
“That’s right.” I massaged apart the white tendrils. “The plant has been in this pot so long, it is root bound. If we don’t break apart the roots, it won’t be able to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow.”
Like me, I thought, kneeling on the dark, damp soil. Like these last few years of being uprooted, broken apart and transplanted into new ground. How I loved the secure plastic pouch in which I’d raised a family and built a career—secure in my community and connections. Yet, in his wisdom, God himself, the Master Gardener, had pulled me from my pot, broken apart my tightly wound roots and planted me in an unfamiliar bed so that I too would continue to grow.
We are God’s “field” or his “garden,” the apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 3:9. He is the one who pulls the weeds. He the one who turns the soil. He the one who tenderly massages apart our knotted roots so that we will grow. He the one who plants us where we will best bloom.
Still, we have a choice: to yield to the gentle care of our Creator or to whither where we are. For what is bound is destined to break. As I look upon my newly planted beds, green leaves arching toward the sun, I am reminded to yield. It’s never too late to start.
Meadow Rue Merrill, award-winning author of Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Look for her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series this fall with The Christmas Cradle.