“Nevertheless, Thanks be to God!”
“If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you,
O king, that we will not serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
A few days ago, I was out of town for three days, going to Pine Lake to attend a clergy retreat. When I came back, I saw my garden was messed up. My lettuce, radishes, and spinach were all gone, and there were deer footprints alongside my garden. It was terrible!! I was disappointed. I felt heartbroken over the damage and loss to my garden! What poor shape my garden was in! No, honestly, I felt sorry for myself. I felt about to cry in that moment. What can I do for my garden? Should I give up gardening? Should I make taller fences? If I make a taller fence, are my plants safe? What should I do?
I just overcame the issue of protecting my plants in the garden from gophers and moles this year. I was feeling good about the safety of my plants. But, as soon as I thought that my garden was safe from gophers the deer came. It never stops as one things comes after the other. What can I do? I know that even if I make a taller fence for my garden, something may happen to it again. Nevertheless, I keep trying to find an excellent solution to protect them whenever I get in trouble. One day, I asked one of my parishioners, who was an experienced gardener, to share his wisdom. He said, “Plant more than you need so that even though some of them are gone, you will still have some for yourself. That’s the way I do it, he said. If you do this, you may think of it differently. When they eat your plants, you may not feel like they stole them from you, but rather that you shared your harvest with them. That way you may feel better.” What a genius idea! What great wisdom! Yes, the entire gift I have and all my possessions are given by God to share with others in need. I didn’t think of the wild animals that are also God’s creatures that need God’s grace through human beings. Through the conversation with him, I learned a little more. See, how could I stop gardening? Gardening is a joyous hobby, meditation tool, and means of God’s grace for me. Every morning and evening, I walk through my garden, pulling weeds, watering my plants, and sometimes talking with my plants. I love gardening and enjoy it. Along with my plants, I am growing in faith and wisdom daily.
Wisconsin is a beautiful state, especially for gardening. Many new Wisconsinites among my colleagues just moved to Wisconsin for their ministry. Most of them may have received the suggestion to start gardening. If they ask “how to start gardening,” some may recommend they talk to me. I am a pretty famous gardener among my colleagues. They think I am an expert gardener. But, it’s not true. I am not a professional gardener, but I am a joyful gardener. Since I moved to Wisconsin in 2019, I have kept gardening. I have a secret to enjoying gardening. My secret is that I have good advisors who help me. They are like the spiritual mentors in my faith journey. They are my parishioners and neighbors. Whenever I get in trouble with my garden, I talk with them. Then, they bring me great solutions, as I mentioned before.
One day, I got a phone call from one of my colleagues about how to plant. I shared with her the wisdom I had learned. I said, “If you need one, plant two more for the wild animals. And you put up a fence only around what is yours, and the wild animals may take the rest.” We laughed a lot at that wisdom. We know everything doesn’t go as we plan. Wild animals may take more than one or may ruin what is in the fence. However, as much trouble as we may experience, we learn enough to go forward. We may get in trouble in everyday life. Nevertheless, we can give thanks to God. Even though wild animals took my plants, I give thanks to God because the ones that remain remind me of God’s fair and steadfast love toward all his creations.
I often recall Daniel and his friends, who were arrested in Babylon, about how their faith was great. When they were prohibited from worshiping God, they still kept worshiping God in their rooms. Finally, they stood before the king to be put in the fiery furnace. However, they said, “If our God whom we serve can deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But, if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). What a great confession of faith in God! Even though we get in trouble, we trust God, who may rescue us. But, if God doesn’t save us from the crisis, we keep worshiping God.