Gardening is work. Lots of hard work. Anyone who has ever had much experience in gardening can tell you that no matter what time of year, there are almost always chores to be done in order to keep a garden beautiful and vibrant. In spite of all this, I’ve found that gardening is one of the easiest ways for me to be still.
It’s not being still in a physical sense, of course. My time spent in the garden is the time when its usually easier for me to still my mind.
Garden work can be pretty methodical. Pulling weeds requires very little thought. I just go through the motions I’ve been through hundreds, if not thousands of times. So, in spite of the fact that my body is in almost constant motion, my mind is on vacation. Those can be the times when I hear God speak to me most clearly; when I am better able to obey His command to “be still”. I still my mind.
Sure, I believe God expects us to still our bodies on occasion in order to rest physically. In fact, He commanded us to do that. But, sometimes when God tells us to be still, I can’t help but think He might be speaking of stilling our minds. Maybe He wants us to quiet our fears and stop trying to devise ways to solve our problems.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
When I read Psalm 46:10 in my Bible, the study notes for that verse say “cease from warlike activities and acknowledge God’s supremacy”. So, when my mind feels like a battlefield of emotions I sometimes retreat to my garden in search of stillness. Most days I find it. Some days, even with my best attempts at stilling my mind, I struggle. Like the day of the barking dog.
One particular day when the weather was ideal for outdoor work, I sat myself down in the middle of a bed that desperately needed weeding, and I sought out that time of stillness in my mind and in my soul. I had looked forward so much to this time when I would remove myself from the phone calls and the texts and the television, just to listen for God’s voice. Instead, what I got was the relentless barking of a small dog.
Our neighbors were dog-sitting for one of their children. This dog just beyond our fence, was very unhappy in its strange environment. It began its barking just as I began my gardening. The barking never stopped, not even for a minute, the whole time I was in the garden. The more the dog barked, the more irritated I got. My teeth clenched. My head began to pound. Try as I may, it was nearly impossible for me to block out the constant sound that had begun to grate on every nerve of my being. I couldn’t hear God’s voice because of the barking.
It wasn’t that God’s voice couldn’t be heard over the barking of a small dog. I couldn’t hear God’s voice because I let myself focus on the distraction. My effort to hear from God had to shift from passive to active. God taught me that sometimes seeking Him can require some effort on my part. He taught me that it’s fine to be still and to rest in Him and take in His Word and soak in His presence, but sometimes He wants me to strive for Him… to truly work at seeking Him.
Those distracting, barking dogs in our lives… well, they typically don’t show up just by chance. Many times they’re placed there intentionally. We have an Enemy who wants to stand in the way of a still soul. That Enemy doesn’t want us to hear from God. He has lots of barking dogs that he’ll let loose right outside our fences the minute he sees us get serious about “being still and knowing that God is God.”
God commands us to seek Him. He has some wonderful promises for those who seek Him. But sometimes we have to make every effort to look past the distractions and to hear beyond those barking dogs.
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Blessed are those who keep His statues and seek Him with all their heart — (Psalm 119:2)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
This post is a modified excerpt from Janet Benson’s book Break Up Your Unplowed Ground: Unearthing God’s Desires for Your Life.