Sunday, September 12, 2010

Other People's Gardens

By Suanne Camfield

I was flipping through this quarter’s issue of FullFill Magazine and was struck by the diversity of the author’s passions-justice, mentoring, spiritual formation, motherhood-and momentarily wondered why such worthwhile callings didn’t making my blood pump a little faster. Why my own passion meter didn’t skyrocket on issues I believe to be invaluable to the shaping of God’s kingdom. And then I figured out why. It’s because I hate to garden.

Honestly, I wish I didn’t because I like the idea of gardening (and I think gardeners have an artistic flair and whimsical charm that makes me want to be just like them). But each spring I trudge through Home Depot with a flat-bed cart optimistic that this will be the year I fall in love with shady groundcover, hearty annuals and organic fertilizer. And every year, without fail, I leave overwhelmed and frustrated, because the truth is, I just don’t like to garden.

Willing ourselves to be passionate about something doesn’t really work, does it? Mustering desire for work that doesn’t bring us joy or that we’re not inherently good at can leave us feeling inadequate and unfulfilled-no matter how much we want to like it. But rather than questioning why we don’t feel motivated to serve in specific areas, maybe we need to embrace the fact that our pulse doesn’t quicken-not because the work isn’t worthwhile-but because it’s not the work that God has uniquely equipped us to do.

Even though I don’t enjoy the intricacies of gardening, do you know what I do love? Other people’s gardens. By definition, I relish them. I have a “pleasurable appreciation” for them. And when I relish other people’s gardens-the kind of relishing that’s free from jealousy, comparison and self-doubt-I experience freedom in my passion because I finally accept that the work God has prepared in advance for someone else to do is not the same (exact) work he has prepared for me to do.

There are some areas in our lives that God gives us permission to stand back and nod in appreciation over the beautiful landscape someone has created. Cut yourself some slack and take in the view. But in those moments when something is different, when you read an article on HIV/AIDS orphans and your heart slams in your chest, or your church asks for volunteers to lead the next small group and your palms start to sweat, pay attention. After all, we don’t serve a God who asks us to--appreciate him. We serve a God who asks us to recognize our influence, be confident in who he’s created us to be, and then get on our hands and knees and start digging in the dirt.


  1. Thank you for this encouraging post! I sometimes feel "guilty" for not feeling strongly about a worthy cause. Thanks for the reminder to tend to my own garden while relishing others'.

  2. Well said! "Other people's gardens." I like that image. I can relate. My struggle is also when I covet those gardens and wish that I was the gardener that brought it all to life. Then I have to step back and check my jealousy and remember that God himself is the master gardner and that we all bloom in his time. Well said sister!

  3. I found it very interesting to read this after a conversation I had with my husband about missions yesterday. Are we not good Christians if we are not called to serve him overseas? Entering some other "garden" far, far away? Our conversation ended with a level of contentment that my "garden" may just be in my community or somewhere a bit closer. It caused me to release that feeling of guilt that I'm not hopping on the next plane to serve Him. It's so important to hear Him and work in the "garden" He has gifted us with! Well said Suanne!

  4. Thanks ladies. Your words are a reminder back to myself! I wrote this post out of a struggle I often have to measure up to other people's callings, the idea that somehow the work God has put in front of me isn't as worthy as the work he's put in front of others. It's ridiculous if you stop to think about it. I mean, how boring would it be if we all got fired up about the same things? And think of all the people who would miss out. Anyway, thanks for the great insights. And by all means, dig in those gardens God has put in your life. I have no doubt you are making a difference!

  5. I love this for many reasons. 1. I hate to garden. 2. I agree with your "artistic flair and whimsical charm" comment, and I probably really just want that, not the actual gardens. 3. I think if we could all be freed up to do our own work and encourage others in theirs, we'd be much further along in spreading the kingdom of heaven! Great post.

  6. Enjoyed this article and it brought to mind feelings about friendship and relationships. "Cherish our likenesses and respect our differences." This becomes an equalizer and allows appreciation of all things different.

    I happen to love a garden. Think Cecilia Thacker. My sister hates a garden. Same DNA! Don't you love it?

    Jude Urbanski

  7. Great post Suanne! Made me laugh because I realized this years ago when i was volunteered to be in the nursery several Sundays in a row by another mom. While I enjoy my own children, "children's ministry" is NOT my cup of tea!! At first I felt bad about it, now I've come to appreciate that God has created us each with different gifts (and levels of patience for things like gardening and taking care of other people's children!!!) is important that we follow those inklings because we will best be glorifying God when we find the place where our gifts and the needs of the world meet (I think there is a really good quote about that somewhere!).

    Thanks for the reminder!! and the permission to breathe a sigh of relief that we are not "called" to everything!

  8. When the children were young, I belonged to a Woman's Church Group. We would go to a State Mental Hospital to visit a resident each month. I went with one of the ladies one month and the next month I was supposed to take another lady. After our visit, I knew I just couldn't go back there. The living conditions were awful, the ladies were so mentally sick they had to be locked up in their dorms and I questioned why my children were healthy and these poor ladies had to live their lives like this. I pondered what to do and then I did the "open the Bible to see what God says". The verse I opened to was the one that says every person has their own talents. I was afraid I was using this verse as a way of not going back but then I realized that visiting someone in this setting was not "my talent" and that I was to use it in some other ways. I think we are given opportunities to do God's work each day and each day we have to decide if we can give our best to help in each situation. If we decide we can't, we must accept that and move on to the next one that is sent our way by God. Everything will get done eventually. God will see to that. Aunt Kathy