It started with some dirt. We had just moved into a new house, and I was excited to get our vegetable garden up and running. After a successful two years of growing beautiful tomatoes and hefty zucchini at our previous residence, I considered myself somewhat of an expert in the area of horticulture. Granted, what I didn’t know then is that tomatoes and zucchini pretty much grow themselves, but they were delicious nonetheless. As my husband mapped out the new garden and started building beds, my imagination ran wild considering all the ways my Pinterest board could take root and blossom right in front of me.
The Shared Roots of Zucchini and Pride
As I crouched on my hands and knees, working my fingers through the clay-infused soil, I had a sneaking suspicion it was a less-than-optimal growing environment. No matter though. After all, I was an expert. Experts don’t need to change their minds. Apparently, experts also purchase premium dirt from a local vendor, spend a lot of money on baby plants, and plant them only to watch them die. Some experts may even be known to continue in the same plant purchasing/plant dying cycle for many months, certain each time around a newer, more successful outcome would prevail.
That expert would be wrong.
I’m sorry to say, today isn’t much different, although we’ve managed to make some improvements—the soil is becoming more nutrient-dense thanks to the dead plant matter worked back into the soil, and I have all the hope in the world for a successful summer vegetable garden. But all those months of toiling away in the dirt, knowing that something wasn’t quite working yet refusing to swallow my pride and remedy it, well, here we are, seven months later and still not even the tiniest amount of produce to show for it.
Humility and Rightly Knowing Ourselves
Perhaps I’m no expert gardener after all, but those frustrating months weren’t completely for naught. And while I can sit here and bemoan the fact that it took me so long to figure out a decent plan of action, I won’t. The truth is that God, in his kindness, used those growing seasons of dying plants and malnourished soil to teach me when and how to pivot—to change course. It’s his kindness that challenges me to approach issues from a different perspective and to entertain the idea that I don’t have it all figured out. It’s his patience that allows me to sit in my pride until I’m willing to surrender my “expertise” to him.
His overwhelming goodness and patient correction leads me to look honestly at the areas in my life in which I’m lacking. And where I lack, his grace is abundant. Where pride deceives me, humility invites me into a deeper understanding of who I am in comparison to who God is. Like Paul says in Romans 2, it really is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.
I want to bring value, worth, and expertise to the world. I even trick myself into thinking my natural capabilities are necessary for God’s overarching plan for eternity. But then simple events take place like unsuccessfully planting a vegetable garden that reminds me just how little I know and how little expertise I have.
It’s okay to change your mind.
I don’t remember what it was that convinced me my method of planting over and over again in poor dirt was not a wise, long-term investment. Embarrassingly, it took much longer to realize than it should have. Being convinced of both my own expertise and my rightness blinded me to valuable gardening truth and advice. Instead of being willing to slow down and learn, I fought hard for what I thought I knew was the right solution. I didn’t realize I was actually fighting myself.
Our God invites us to consider a better way. He provides us the option to change, which leads us to a fuller understanding of who we are in comparison to who he is. We change through the opportunity to reject the false narrative that says we might know it all. We change because through Jesus we can accept the gift of humility—that apart from what we know is true in the Bible, there’s freedom in holding differing perspectives. There’s freedom in realizing I don’t always have the right answers.
Sometimes God uses people, sometimes God uses events, and sometimes he uses dirt to change our minds about ourselves and to teach us the ways in which we are not experts of our own lives, but instead learners of a big universe, created by an even bigger God.
Cover image by Gabriel Jimenez.