Recently, I spent some time in an urban garden in the neighborhood of Earlsfield, in South London, UK. The garden stands between the largest prison in Europe and the busiest highway in the country. It’s named: Paradise.
Paradise, indeed. Bees buzz around their hives, pollinating the nearby sunflowers. Cherry tomatoes overflow, tasting like candy still warm from the sun. Rows and rows of cucumbers and kale, greens and carrots, grow next to wild blueberry bushes. And if that weren’t picturesque enough, a yurt perches in the back as a home for napping toddlers during their outdoor school days.
Paradise, indeed. Of course, I toured the garden three years after the community was granted use of the land. In the beginning, the garden was brambles. Each year, after clearing the land, they’ve added plants. A pond. Hives. Tubular gardens. A composting toilet. More greens. Another hive. Picnic tables and a sink. A brick oven.
From our view, it was paradise realized: not just the surroundings but the way the garden brings the community together for common harvesting, shared meals, rest and rejuvenation. The building of community and contributing to the environment. Children, of all ages, enjoy the benefit of being outside, unencombered.
Hanging from a tree were various quotes. We had the gift of lingering, reading, and dwelling. The one that spoke to me said this:
“Be patient with darkness and growth,
Willing to live with not knowing,
Have faith to believe in the fulfillment of unseen things,
Work happily within the dark and hidden places of God,
Until God allows your mustard seed to sprout”
I do NOT work happily within the dark and hidden places of God. I want my mustard plant to grow bushy and full and wild NOW. I want to see what I can’t and know the future is secure.
And yet...I know this isn’t how gardens grow. Or paradise comes to be. The work in the dark is holy. Planting seeds is fruitful (even and especially when we don’t know what will grow).
When someone in my group asked the leaders how they learned to garden the answer surprised us all: Youtube videos.
Step by step. Seed by seed. Video by video, they made a way.
Have a dream? Want to plant a seed? Overwhelmed by the brambles? Google it. Dig in the dirt. Don’t know what you’re doing? Join the club.
Just don’t let the unknown stop you. That’s my freeing lesson from paradise. I fail, again and again, but I’m committed to plant. In the dark dirt. And trust God with the rest. How about you?