Gardening and Recovery

As I have been working in our garden this spring and summer, I frequently find myself thinking about the lessons learned from gardening that can be applied to our journey to Recovery.

It all begins with preparing the soil for planting. First, all the leaves and debris that have accumulated over the winter months must be removed, and then the soil must be broken up and prepared in order for it to be ready to receive the seeds, or plants, that you want to grow. Likewise, the Holy Spirit seeks to work in all of us, breaking up and softening our stony, hardened hearts, and preparing us to receive the Seed of God’s Word.

Look at the ‘Parable of the Sower’, from Matthew 13:3-8 & 18-23, where Jesus speaks of what happens to the various seeds as sower cast them into his field. Some of the seeds are immediately snatched away by birds before they can ever take root, much like many of us when we first heard God’s Word and we either did not understand it, or we allowed our sinful desires to override the Truth. However, some of the seeds would fall on stony ground, much like many of our hearts were when the Holy Spirit first started to prepare our hearts. Because our hearts were no longer solid, there was room to receive the Word and we did so gladly, but we were not fully grounded and our ‘soil’ not completely ready, we quickly fell away and lost our resolve to break free from our addictions once things became hard, or we experienced the ridicule or wooing of our old friends. Likewise, some of the seed fell amongst the thorns and were able to grow for a while, but the thorns eventually overtook them and choked the plants out of existence. This would be much like those who accept start down the road to recovery, gain some degree of freedom while growing in their faith. However, they do not fully commit to the change, allowing the daily distractions and allures of the world to sidetrack them, and they become, at best, carnal Christians who fail to produce the fruit in their lives as they were intended; at worst, they totally fall away and return to the death of their addictions. Finally, there are the seeds that fall on the well-prepared soil and grow to fruitfully mature plants. This represents those of us whose hearts are truly softened by the Holy Spirit and we continue to grow in His Word as we shed the chains of our addictions.

While this is a great start, anyone who has done any gardening knows that this is just that – only the start. Once the plants are established, or we are fully engaged in our recovery journey, we cannot just sit back and relax. Instead we must continually work to keep the gardens of our heart free from any weeds that will, inevitably, try to spring up and, like the thorns, choke us out or stunt our growth by stealing the nutrients we require. Weeding out all these influences is important for our growth, but it is even more essential that we keep our gardens (hearts) well-watered and well fertilized by continually reading and studying God’s Word.

While keeping everything well weeded will surely enable us to grow mature fruit-bearing plants, there is another aspect that is just as important to our health, but which can sometimes be more painful. This is where pruning comes into play. John 15:2 tells us, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” In one aspect of pruning, the growth is cut back in order to stimulate stronger and healthier growth. One of the more painful aspects of ‘pruning’ in our personal lives often include cutting off friends, or even family members, who are still in their addictions and may, unintentionally or intentionally, work to drag us back into our additions. Likewise, we need to cut ourselves off from those locations which may serve as triggers to our addictive behaviors and undermine our recoveries. Like cutting diseased or malformed branches from a fruit tree will make the tree stronger and healthier, severing these ties will help us develop stronger and healthier recovery-walks.

Let’s keep our gardens watered, weeded, and fertilized, and our fruit trees well-pruned!

Taking Every Thought Captive!

Scott Pipenhagen
Recovery / Transition Chaplain
Serve & Protect
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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About Scott P.

Scott is a retired Military LEO and a Volunteer Chaplain with Serve & Protect (www.serveprotect.org) where he seeks to provide transition services for First Responders and Military personnel by mentoring and connecting them with local 12 Step or similar Faith-Based recovery programs, local Chaplains, and Trauma Therapists to continue their recovery journey following residential care treatment. Scott contributes these devotions to the Serve & Protect ministry Facebook page: Guns'n'Hoses (https://www.facebook.com/GunsHosesMinistry). Scott has been involved in Faith-Based recovery programs since 2006 and has a Bachelor of Science in Religion through Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies through Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Fredericksburg, VA, and can be contacted at spipenhagen@liberty.edu.
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