We’re a few weeks on at the 30×17 plot. Everything but a few of the potato sets have sprouted (I imagine they’ve rotted since they were pieces cut from a single potato). The sweet corn is growing like nuts which, as a Nebraskan, makes me very happy (it’s at about 12″). The tomatoes are bushing out and growing strong central vines. Its awesome to watch this 500 sq ft of dirt turn into a garden.
As things have sprouted and have started to reach a few inches in height, we have to start thinning out the seedlings. I’ve been been avoiding the thinning for a few days. As a new gardener it makes me (Eric) nervous to put all the work into tilling the ground, prepping the soil, and making sure everything gets enough water just to turn around and pull some up of the newly sprouted plants. I know it’s necessary, but it feels painful. The lettuce is especially difficult because the seed is sown rather densely, then thinned to just one plant every 8 inches or so. Each head of Romaine will reach about 10 inches in height and spread to about 8 or so inches in width. Each needs room to grow properly. We must restrict the number of plants in the row so the ones that can grow will reach maturity.
In a similar way, as a church, we have limited ourselves. We have restricted (and pruned) ourselves to a particular place of influence in order to foster the growth of healthy common life in our neighborhood.
A little background.
A little over two and a half years ago, when our church was in a sort of transition, the new lead pastor began calling members to move into the neighborhood where our Sunday gathering is located. As people started to relocate to the pretty plain, pretty middle-class neighborhood, we found that practicing life together and the “all things in common” of Acts 2 began to make more sense. Our pastor was asking us to uproot wherever we had decided was best to live in San Diego, for whatever reason, and move into a neighborhood that is nice…but not particularly interesting or hip or trendy. It has its charms, but it’s primarily populated by older folks who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. The motto of our local community council is “Peaceful, Friendly, Rolando”. We like it peaceful. We like it friendly. We’d like to keep it that way. Not exactly the diverse, edgy, multicultural (though we are some of that), urban hub that is a popular with young reformed missonal Evangelicals (or anyone under 35 for that matter) these days. What our pastor was calling us to was to live in a particular place, serve a particular people, and live a particular life together. He was calling us to limits.
The outcome of this is that our central goals, as Christians, of loving God and loving our neighbor, are achievable. We aren’t spread out all over the city, each of us having different neighbors and different spheres of influence. We are proximate to one another (somewhere around 95-98% of our church population lives within walking distance of each other) and able to bear one each others’ burdens, share what we have with each other, and get to know the same neighbors with the goal of displaying Christ to them. When someone’s car breaks down (as ours has…multiple times) rides and car lends are available. When a baby is born, meals can be walked over to help ease some of the stress of the new life. When a neighbor’s back yard hill landslides in a rare intense rain storm and destroys their retaining wall there’s a dozen strong fellas under 30 who can operate jack hammers and pick axes to remove a few dumpsters worth of earth and concrete. When our homeless friends need food or a ride to recycling or just to talk we’re down the block or around the corner.
This is possible because we’ve allowed ourselves to be limited by our callings (the very nature of callings is that they limit) as Christians to love God and love our neighbors. This isn’t a great labor we’ve done, it’s something we’ve become as we have read the Gospels and the book of Acts. It’s something God is doing through us as we draw near to him. We fail at it. Everyday. While community is built into humans, we are broken and often wish to selfishly hold onto our possessions or isolate ourselves from common life or work to promote our own name rather than Christ’s name. We can only lay down our lives and live within these limits through the love of Christ.
Did I think of all this while thinning the lettuce? No, not quite. This is more of what we call a ramble.
I apologize for the length.
Checked on the Romaine today. The plants I selected are beginning to leaf out. I ate the ones that were selected against.