When I was a kid, my dad had this book rattling around in his powder blue Honda Civic hatchback. It was a book of soil samples meant, I think to help him identify the varieties of soil he encountered in the rural Florida panhandle in the course of his work. All I knew was the beauty of the different varieties: yellowish sand, rich brown, iron-tinged red clay.
Fast forward to my own garden. I live in a county named for its rockiness, and recently, working in my front garden bed, I hit on a huge rock just below the surface. I felt like an archaeologist as, over the next the few days, whenever I had a moment, I chipped away at excavating the boulder that had lurked beneath the surface of the garden for who knows how long.
It took a lot of grunting and a bit of smushing nearby plants, but finally I got the thing pulled out of there. The satisfaction was a little bit ridiculous. I moved it to a border and got myself a bag of nice, fresh garden soil to fill in the crater, thinking of how my bulbs will flourish so much better this spring without this massive rock crowding them.
Except when I went to add the soil, I discovered there was another hunk of rock hiding just beside my crater. So I levered that one out, too, added it to my border, too, felt absurdly proud again.
And it struck me that this whole gardening struggle is maybe how God feels about us: elated about the big victories, but determined to see the project through to the end. In my garden, I’ve got the big rocks out, the obviously sinful sins, if you know what I mean, so that I’m not just trying to work around them and expecting good results despite major roadblocks. I’ve got the big rocks out, but this is, after all, rock country. There are other, smaller stones in there redirecting my best efforts, thwarting my plans, making it hard for roots to reach down for nourishment. I’ll be battling those yet. To make it worse, previous owners at some point gave up on that quaint concept of weeding and just dumped heaps of white gravel into the little bed. It would be a mistake to forget about them, those stones that disappear in some seasons only to reveal themselves as soon as the daffodils finish, after the mulch has settled a bit.
So I dig around the good growth, the places where I’ve done something right, and keep trying to make planting a little easier for myself in the future. And if I’m patient and dedicated, I will make a discernible difference to this little garden. Each year the soil will be easier to break up and fertilize. There will be fewer rocks, and more lush growth. Perfection isn’t going to ever be an option in this lifetime, but health and growth, with enough work, are possible. It’ll be the worthy work of a lifetime.