My immediate reaction upon contemplating the word “broken” is to begin a frantic mental dance of dependency within the halls of the negative. I want to apply the word to myself and to my life. And like a sorcerer, I conjure up memories of unrealized dreams, abandoned relationships, echoes of rejection, and mantras of failure. Afterward, soaked with tears, I might wander aimlessly through the weeds of pain that currently grow unchecked within my heart’s soil….the worrisome saplings of life’s pursuits growing into certain disappointment and despair.
As I continue to misguide my imagination, I might fall to my knees and with all that I am, cast an accusatory finger at “broken” (not necessarily the middle finger). My caustic tongue would then yell, “The reason for heartache, the reason for pain…Life is broken. I am broken. Hunger, illness, war, poverty, and racism…The World is broken.”
At many levels, this outburst might be justified. However, what is troublesome to me is that I myself represent Life—its Spirit animates me. I live in this World as a participant….though mostly it seems I only observe. Am I broken?
Can a garden be broken?
For me, the term “broken” carries with it a mechanistic connotation. If “broken” is accepted as a legitimate analytical conclusion to the quandary of existence, then a person might be tempted to search for the ideal identity or the correct companion…strive to implement a perfectly designed system into a day’s routine…adopt the impulse to treat ourselves and others in the same way we treat a stopped-up toilet–“I can fix that.” But… personally, I don’t feel comfortable using the term “broken” as a guiding metaphor for people. Cars? Yes. Financial status? Always. Making sure your cat learns not to pee on the laundry…housebroken? YES!!!
When it comes to people, I prefer to rely on the term “garden” as my guiding metaphor.
Gardens don’t break, they are neglected. Cared for, gardens are a generous source. An abundant feast. A loving provider. They grow. People grow. We grow. You grow. I grow.
The twist? While humanity, as a whole, is a garden, the heart of the individual is a gardener. And this presents a potential problem of perspective. A gardener cannot garden a gardener. A gardener must garden a garden. Intentionally. Creatively.
Mercy. Forgiveness. Patience. Kindness. Understanding. Love. These are the implements of a spiritual gardener. Like the sun, soil, water, fertilizer, and seeds, work in concert to grow food and flowers, spiritual groundskeepers tend to the hearts of those who might need a little attention. All of us have been planted as companions to encourage and grow each other. We aerate and expose the dirty lies of non-value and systemic false identity that become caked around the heart. We desiccate the bitter anger foisted by monetary outlets upon the souls of the sacred. You are sacred. I am sacred.
A garden asks only for attention.
Of course, the question must be asked…If we are both garden and gardener at the same time, who gardens the gardener?
It’s the gardener’s love for the garden that produces its bounty. It’s the gardener’s occupancy and acceptance of the role as a gardener—- because this pursuit feeds and energizes both the gardener and the family. A gardener tends to themselves by gardening. The painter’s love of the canvas. The writer’s love of the page. The singer’s love of the song. The mother’s love of the child. The leader’s love of community. The generous person’s love of giving. We are all gardens with the heart of a gardener.
Life is not broken.
The world is not broken.
They are neglected.
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