I’m sure you remember the children’s nursery rhyme that goes:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
My parents taught me all the old rhymes, and I loved them. I had no idea that some of the “cool” rhymes were a writer’s way of speaking out against governments or secretly sharing belief in Christianity, or any of the other more sober reasons for those old favorites. I only knew that I loved to hear them and repeat them.
As an adult, my mind has, on occasion, been drawn to a line or two of some of these little poems, for the opportunity it has given me to teach principles that matter. Today, I’d like to share some thoughts on how our gardens grow.
Fertile soil is needed for good growth. Rain and sunshine are necessary for a good crop of vegetables, fruits or flowers. Extra nourishment in the form of fertilizer is a great bonus for better harvest. Good gardeners keep their plot tended well with weeding, pruning, and fussing over
their garden. Critters that can harm the roots, the tender shoots, the vines or the blooms must be dealt with and gotten rid of.
It takes daily overseeing to grow a healthy garden. Then the fruits of the work are ready for enjoyment! The pathway along the entire garden is a beautiful thing to behold. It is a place of peace and joy.
Building our lives is like growing a garden. In order to grow to our best potential, we have a perfect plan which, when followed, offers us the plentiful reward for our work. Let’s take a brief look at a few ways of comparing “gardens”:
- Fertile soil. Just as a garden needs it, the scriptures teach us the value of having a fertile place within in order to accept the seeds of righteousness that may grow as we go.
- Rain. There are two thoughts here. One is that water is essential for life. Christ is the Living Water. Without Him, and the acceptance of that Living Water, we spiritually stagnate and wither away. Secondly, no one likes to go through dark times. It may be upsetting and upending when the dark clouds of trouble hang over us and threaten to destroy our peace! But with those rains and storms comes strength and greater faith. Even the strong winds of opposition cannot sway us from our focus on growing in spiritual health and vibrancy. With faith and hope in Christ, the rains are good for polishing, pruning, and preparing us.
- Sunshine. The glad tidings of the sunshine of eternal truths are to our souls like the sunshine that brings warmth to our plants in the garden. It gladdens our heart and nurtures us to feel the “sunshine in the soul”!
- Fertilizer. Fertilizer can be tricky. It must be the right kind, given at the right time, and in the right amount in order to best fortify our garden. Spiritually growing up, we need that fertilizer that comes in different forms. Sometimes that fertilizer may not feel so friendly (think the smell of most fertilizers!), but it makes for heartier vines. We who want to be of the vineyard of our Master must submit to the right strengthening agents in their time and in the right amount.
- Tending . In order to grow ourselves toward the Son, it is necessary to tend carefully. Weeding out ugly influences, pruning out the less desirable traits or habits, and being careful to nourish our spiritual and emotional welfare are vital to the tending process.
- Pest Control. There are certain things we must get serious about as we grow our garden of life. The critters that harm — those things that send the Holy Ghost packing — must be gotten rid of. This is where the beautiful and loving gift of repentance comes in.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton once said, “What a sweet, personal victory it is to recognize misdirection in one’s own life and to pay the price that then lets us walk in His paths.” [Ensign, May 1979, p. 69]
Another beautiful quote that offers comfort is this one: “The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul.” [President Spencer W. Kimball.]
- Daily work. “It is the eternal, inescapable law that growth comes only from work and preparation, whether the growth be material, mental, or spiritual. Work has no substitute.” [President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, April 1933, p. 103.]
If we can cheerfully tend ourselves, making sure to put in the necessary amount of work and effort to grow in righteousness, great will be the rewards of those efforts.
Though life may sometimes seems contrary, there is the chance to grow a beautiful garden of goodness, with an offering to our Father in Heaven of a life well-lived. Though through the growing there will undoubtedly be times of storm, of winds, or adversarial push and pull, we may remain steadfastly planted in the soil of righteousness. We can grow a life of peace and joy. Isn’t that so much better than “silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row”?