Cursed Be the Ground, Thanks Be to the Gardener

Daniel Kishi: Many weeds to pull, many sins to confess.

If the sensibilities of my coworkers are indicative of widespread horticultural sentiment, there are few tasks more maddening than pulling weeds from an overgrown bed of roses. Prolonged attempts to extract the root systems of the pestilent invaders inevitably results in a pair of sore knees, a stiff lower back, and the transformation of one’s hands into blocks of swiss cheese. It is little wonder why the members of my grounds crew avoid the task until all other items on the to-do list have been completed. Maddening though it may be, toiling in the rose bed offers a surprisingly concise primer of human history and an opportunity for its inhabitants to work out their salvation.   

Humanity’s oldest ancestor was formed from the dust of the ground, furnished with a soul, placed in a garden as the head groundskeeper, and presented with a helper. Tempted by a serpent, man consumed the forbidden fruit–a deviation from the perfect order decreed by the Creator. Indulging his hubris Adam squandered an immeasurable gift, corrupting the nature of his descendents and the soil to which he was entrusted. The garden and the gardener, once unblemished manifestations of goodness, became the vehicles by which pain, suffering, and death entered the world.

Although the culprit of man’s Fall, each of his descendants (save One) is a willful participant in the violation of the Law written upon their hearts. Casting Adam as the scapegoat of a human drama gone awry is a blame game subject to limits. The responsibility of sin’s physical consequences, though the fruit of Adam’s labor, ought to be collectively shared among every human to have walked the earth.

I enter the garden, experience the pain of the rose bed, and by divine grace I am reminded of my need for a Physician. It is because of my sin that my knees are sore. It is because of my sin that my lower back aches. It is because of my sin that my hands are splintered. I confess my sins to my priest, participate in Holy Communion, and by a divine mystery I am grafted to the Body of Christ. Though the detrimental effects can be mitigated with proper upkeep, weeds in the rose bed and sin in my life are two constants in a world of uncertainties. Many weeds to pull, many sins to confess.

The clock strikes five–my shift is over, the work is not. Washing the dirt from my hands, I am reminded of my origin and my end. Plucking the thorns from my fingers, I am reminded of my perpetual need for a Second Adam–a Gardener who has trampled down death and will return the fallen world to the perfect order of Eden.

Cursed be the ground. Thanks be to the Gardener.

Daniel Kishi is a third year undergraduate at Patrick Henry College where he mows lawns, weeds flower beds, and shovels snow. He also studies journalism and the classical liberal arts. He lives in Leesburg, Va. with his wife.

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