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Faithful Living: Tending the garden of God
During the latter part of the 1700s and into the first third of the 1800s there lived a British poet named Samuel Taylor Coleridge. While we could assess his lasting contributions to British literature, there is one story about this Brit that lives beyond his poetry.
It seems he got caught up, one day, in a discussion about religion and children with a house guest who believed children should not be provided formal religious education. They should, his guest reasoned, be set free to select their own religion. Coleridge, as the story is told, decided to invite his guest into the garden adjoining his house, rather than enter into a debate.
“Is this really your garden?” his visitor inquired, “There’s nothing here but weeds!”
“Well,” Coleridge replied, “I’m giving this garden plot a chance to express itself and choose its own production.”
What a wonderful way to illustrate a fact about a faith-filled life: nothing worthy is ever produced without toil. Persistence. Care. Consistent tending and watering.
To experience God in ways you can genuinely detect, there must always be an element of expectation as well as perseverance. Some people believe corporate worship is a great venue to experience God so they attend on a regular basis.
But there is personal responsibility built into a worship experience. To choose the role of a consummate consumer and say that others must perform in ways that will draw us into the presence of God is to step out of the process. If this describes you, tell God about your frustrations with worship and ask him to bring people into your life who will invite you to various services so you can observe how others choose to worship. The expectation that a new, deep experience with God will come your way is reasonable if you are willing to participate.
Also consider ways you might like to worship God on an individual level. My mother-in-law is a member of a quilting guild and serves on a committee that sews quilts that are donated to police and fire stations, adoption agencies, veterans homes and emergency relief organizations. Sewing these quilts and envisioning the love and warmth they will provide is one of her favorite ways to worship God.
While individual worship is soulful and satisfying, don’t dismiss the dynamics of corporate worship. This challenges the individualism some people feel, but it is my strong belief that not worshiping with other believers robs others of your wonderful presence and prevents true growth in you. And if walking into a worship center or church sanctuary is intimidating, go with a friend who regularly attends. That will provide you with someone to sit with and they can cue you as to the order of worship as well as the ins and outs of the service.
For this week, let’s tend our private gardens by adding a new, private worship experience. In time, you will see the fruits of your labor and experience God in surprising new ways.
Joan Bay Klope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.