Growing our own food enables us to teach our kids the important theological lesson of slowing down. And it enables me to remind myself of this spiritual discipline which I seem to be forever forgetting.
I recently posted some reflection on Slow Church and “coffee theology”, the idea that beauty, rather than efficiency, is more of a kingdom value. And this is something that I really want to teach my girls as they grow up. In a world which values efficiency, fast everything and instant gratification, the 12-14 weeks to wait and watch our food grow are a gift. In the garden we teach our kids the importance of planning ahead, the truth about the variability of life and the seasons, the virtue of patience and slowing down… that beauty (and food) takes time. And this has lasting effects on the way we view the world and interact with it.
I think by slowing down in the garden we are able to engage more fully in issues of justice. By slowing down our food production we begin to engage more fully and even rectify some of the things that are broken in our food system. Unfortunately, the global food system is one of convenience, productivity and profit over worker’s rights and environmental impact.
Our fast paced world wants us to buy food and products on impulse, based on feelings, on desires rather than need, based on convenience and price rather than ethics and sustainability. When we choose to slow down and think about our purchases and the way things are produced, we are able to engage more fully with justice in the world. When we slow down, we are more likely to see the effect of our choices on the world. Slowing down and choosing to research and engage with justice issues – like our food’s traceability, sustainability, ethical production and environmental impact – allows us to engage more fully with justice and therefore with the heart of God.
Growing your own food forces you slow down. You can’t eat vegetables because of an impulse, but rather they have to be planned months in advanced. You can’t be driven by convenience, or by your appetite for a product that is not in season or grown in your region. Growing your own veggies forces you to slow down, act ethically and think responsibly about your food. Practising this sort of slowing down in the garden can help cultivate a slower heart, a heart more likely to engage with God’s heart for justice in the world.
Secondly, by slowing down in the garden we are able to engage more fully with our neighbours. With the development of transport like cars and planes people (literally) fly over countryside and never take the chance to take any of it in. By slowing down our lives we can begin to notice more details in our neighbourhoods and this enables us to engage more fully with our neighbours and communities.
By gardening, especially in the front yard, we can have conversations with our neighbours, getting to know them as friends, instead of just waving to them from inside of a car as we pull into our driveway. By choosing to walk our streets, by choosing to live parts of our lives outdoors, on the front verandah, we can begin to see more clearly what God might be up to in our streets and among our friends.
We can teach our kids compassion as we care for the backyard chickens, the need to nurture and tend relationships as we care for the plants, and about emotions and empathy as we watch the changes in the gardens though the seasons of growth, life and death.
But gardens also teach us the joy of celebration as we harvest vegetables and enjoy the bounty. As gardens provide generously from single seeds, so we too learn the art of generosity among our communities. We invite people to eat with us, to share the harvest, to find acceptance and welcome and community among us. We learn about humility and service and generosity as we seek to eat with people with different a worldview, different experiences, but who are seeking life and community like the rest of us. We teach our kids the importance of welcome, hospitality and equality as we eat with anyone and everyone, sharing in whatever we have with whomever God brings across our paths this day.
And, in all of this slowing down, we teach ourselves disciplines which help us engage more fully with God.
If there is one thing I have learnt during my walk with God it is that so very often God does not work at my pace. He is often working much slower than I want him too. My impatience often wins out and I wind up settling for something much less than God intends for me. So often I find myself seeking gratification, value, worth or satisfaction in something other than God because I am impatient or not slowing down enough and therefore fail to see how God is working around me.
If I slow down, take time to contemplate, to rest, to find satisfaction in a rhythm of slow life with God, I find I can engage with him more fully. I find I hear from him more clearly. I find I see what he is doing around me and it becomes easier to join in.
When I slow down I am less likely to settle for something second best (or even third or fourth best!). I am more likely to wait for God, to enjoy stillness and silence with Him.
Unfortunately I frequently find myself back in my old ways of rushing around in a fast paced, frantic, self gratifying way.
That’s when I need to remind myself to go out, find that old garden fork and start digging…