Warm, golden sunshine steadily bathed the lawn. Its brilliance made the lush blades of grass look as if their beautiful shade of green glowed. The slightly humid air felt like velvet against my skin as a gentle breeze softly caressed my cheeks. I stopped planting seeds in the garden for a minute and looked around.
A plump, orange-bellied robin landed a few feet away from the edge of the garden. Opening his beak, he tilted back his head and sang a breath-taking beautiful song that proclaimed his joy; for being alive, for the warm sunshine, for the bountiful earth.
Immediately getting down to business after his song, the bird thrust his beak into the earth near his feet. Coming up with a worm clenched in his jaws, he tugged. The robin pulled mightily until the entire worm was free of the soil. Then, in a flash of powerful wing flaps, he was gone.
I looked down at the seeds in my hand. Would they grow once I put them in the ground? There was nothing to tell me that life existed inside their hard, dry exteriors. In the silence while I contemplated the mystery of seeds, another robin on the other side of the yard caroled its anthem of praise.
The song triggered a memory of a funeral that took place on an early summer day as warm and as beautiful as this one. Loved ones crowded around an open grave with the casket suspended above. When the minister finished his prayers, the silence that followed was profoundly poignant. Suddenly, the clear, beautiful voice of a robin filled the air with a song that made tears well up in my eyes. It made me think of love, hope, and the mystery of what comes after this life.
Amazed that my mind was able to take such a large leap from gardening to remembering robin song at a very sad funeral, I went back to work shaking my head.
The soil felt warm from the sun and ever-so-slightly damp; just the way a gardener wants the soil to feel when planting. Continuing to drop cucumber seeds into the ground and pushing dirt over the top of them, I thought, “A gardener needs faith.”
To harvest a good return on seeds placed in the soil, faith is important, but so is a smattering of common sense. The smaller the seed, the less dirt is needed to cover it. Beans and peas will come up even if they are accidentally buried a couple inches deep. Carrot, radish and dill seeds will not grow if too much soil covers them.
Each year as I spend many hours planting my garden and flowerbed, with only the sound of singing birds for company, the topic of faith always comes to my mind.
This past weekend I helped my daughter Tammie plant some bulbs she’d bought. One of the dahlia bulbs showed several little sprouts, but the other didn’t. I wondered if they both had enough strength to grow and reward her with flowers.
I worried that the soil where we planted was too rocky, too cold, too weedy. Looking at the dry husks on the gladiola bulbs, I confessed to my daughter, “I don’t know if I’m planting or burying these!”
Planting is putting a seed into the ground with the hope that it will grow. Without faith, burying a person represents the absolute end of life. From that perspective, the outcome between the two is hugely different.
As I continued to dig in the soil and drop bulbs into position, I remembered thinking about the funeral where the robin sang so eloquently. Then it occurred to me that if a person has faith, there really isn’t a huge difference between planting and burying.
For gardeners and people who have faith in what the Bible says, the next step in each process is beautiful. The result of planting can be seen in this world, while the blossom of eternal life will only be seen in the next.
John 12:24 “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”