Every Thought Captive

The Good Gardener and the Masterful Vinedresser

"...My Father is the vinedresser"

John 15

When my hands are in the dirt, something about me feels very human. Is it because we were created from the dirt? Why did God create everything else in this vast universe by the power of His Word, but us, from the dirt?

Perhaps the Lord knew we would meet Him there, in the dirt. Possibly when He put man in the garden to work it and to keep it, He knew for the rest of mankind's days they would have their hands in their gardens, their lawns, their farms, working them and keeping them. And here, we would meet Him.

And so it was that my hands were in the dirt of our small backyard a few months ago, making way for star jasmine to be planted along the sunny side of our garage wall. My husband had prepared a diamond-patterned trellis after going through several of my haphazard sketches. The plans were made, the plants were selected; it was time to get to work.

As we worked, I saw a sort of picture of the Gardener, the Vinedresser. My hands in the garden, I saw Him working in the garden of my heart. Oh, how He loves His work in the garden of our hearts!

Think of how vigorously and tenderly He works on you. The soil for planting must be prepared. We read chapters on “soil modification” (there are entire books written on the subject!).  Dry soil does not foster root growth. Rocky soil will not allow for plants to work up toward the light. Sandy soil will become bogged down, and nutrients will not sink in. And so He cultivates the soil of our heart, working imperfections up and out of us. The rough machinery of refinement turns over old, dry, rotting habits and thoughts and impurities. His tender hands dig into the dirt after the hardship seasons of purification, taking the raw and exposed soil of our hearts and adding to it the rich soil of the Word of Christ, so that when roots come, they will grow deep.

With the soil of our hearts prepared, He plants in us the likeness of Himself. He bears His hands down on us so we will take root. He pours out watering grace on every new thing He has planted in us.

The vine breaks through. It finds the pattern the Master has made for it. Even with the pattern laid out before us, still He bends down to conform us to it. I took the vines in between my fingers, and I wrapped them around the trellis wires. It was a creator’s delight. To take something and form it into a plan we had made for it. We stepped back and reveled in our work. The Lord sees His master plan. He lovingly shapes us, turns us this way or that, bends us upward, for our good, and the glory of His work. And to think how He loves this work!

The work is never finished. Weeds crowd in on our vine all the time. My hands go back to the soil, uprooting what has threatened budding life. Some invaders are easy to pull. Some take force. Some appear to be taken care of, but the roots are still underground, and weeds will inevitably resurface. I sometimes feel frustrated – and overwhelmed! – by what hinders my outdoor work. My lack of power and half-hearted love: a poor picture of the sin-killing work of the Creator on behalf of His creation. The Lord loathes the assailing sins that attach themselves to His life-producing work in His creation. These are not pesky weeds or time-wasting annoyances to Him. He does not causally check on the status of His work because He happened to pass it by en route to another task. He is ever-vigilant, ever-watchful, never sleeping (though it is night), ever-tending, ever-pruning, never forgetting His work in the garden of our souls.

What a lovely gardener He is! What a good gardener! How He delights in His work! In me! In you! In us! "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) With delight, He tirelessly tends to the garden of our hearts until, one Day, we will dwell together with Him in the Eternal Garden, and our hearts will be as perfected as the place where we dwell.

About the Author

Photograph of Jenni Goebel

Jenni Goebel

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Jenni was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and attended college at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. While in Dallas attending Dallas Theological Seminary, Jenni met and married her husband, Paul, and now finds herself a Texas resident. She spends her days at home raising their daughters Ann Elise and Margaret.

Jenni and Paul are grateful members of PCPC, where Paul serves as Associate Pastor.