I am truly terrible at gardening. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy it – I love watching things I’ve planted blossom, and digging away in the sunshine. But I am not a patient person (by any stretch of the imagination!), nor someone who likes to relinquish control, and gardening is the very epitome both of patience and powerlessness. Yes, I pick the location, I water, I fertilize, I watch. But to my ongoing frustration, I cannot command those plants to grow and flourish, any more than I can command my waistline to shrink!
Baulkham’s second chapter, 'Putting us in our place', is a stark and beautiful reminder that not only gardening, but the whole of creation is outside of our control. As I re-read Job 38-41 Job’s story appeared in my mind’s eye. A man who lost everything – family, money, security, even his own health – and who questions God’s justice in taking it away. God’s rhetoric is breathtaking in its scope and authority, as he rightly declares “How dare you! You didn’t create nor do you control those things, for I gave them to you.” Our culture is similarly arrogant and proud of its attempt at dominion over creation as it throws away considerations of humaneness, morality, and sustainability for the gods of convenience, prosperity and security. We attempt to exert a greater degree of control than has actually been given to us! And I think there are two spheres where this is particularly evident.
Sphere one: control of the ‘happens everyday’
This is our attempt to control our everyday activities and needs through the purchasing of stuff in order to be ‘comfortable’. But we rarely spend time researching where our clothes, phones, TVs, and food are made, or under what conditions, or question who actually benefits from the profits? Our culture declares loudly “Who cares?” as long as it’s cheap, and made available to me at whatsoever time I choose. Since reading this book, I’ve been prompted to re-look at everything I own and ask “Is that cheaper because child-labour was used? Are these coffee beans from areas that have suffered deforestation and owned by companies that failed to treat their workers fairly?”
Sphere two: control of the ‘might possibly happen’
This is our culture’s attempt to control the more unknown, potentially damaging events through giving money to companies in order to ‘protect’ ourselves and our stuff. Medical insurance, contents insurance, house insurance, life insurance… all in the event of the mystical "what if" that these companies work really hard to perpetuate in order for us to hand over our money. Our culture fears what ‘might’ happen and believes the solution is having more money.
But if Job (and Baulkham) teaches us anything, all of these attempts at control are laughable. What has been given to us can be taken away at a moment’s notice – and if we believe in a Creator-God, then we need to daily remind ourselves of this fact, and try to see all things – humans and the created world – as loved by Him, not as being subservient to our desires and plans. “What if” we thought about giving our money to our fellow creatures and humans who need it, and making sure that it isn’t going to companies that destroy God’s creation as we grow in humility before the God of dominion?
So, on reflection I’ve decided that I need to persevere with my gardening – as a metaphor of the much grander lesson that it is God who has dominion, and I need to cultivate (haha) patience, powerlessness and humility, rather than manipulation and control.
NB As a small step, I’ve downloaded the app “Shop Ethical 2012” so I can see which companies do what, and are owned by who etc. to get a more accurate picture of where the money that I spend on food goes to.